Nov 4, 2009

The Artist and His/Her Art

There has been a lot of chatter about separating the artist from their art recently with the death of Michael Jackson. I noticed a lot of folks who still claimed to love his music even as the man himself literally morphed into a pedophiliac monster in front of our very eyes.  Or the paparazzi's lens, at least.

Then there were some who shunned the man and his art strictly because of his ridiculous surgeries and his kid-touching ways.  It was never really an issue for me because I was never a fan.  Never owned one album of his even though I had been constantly bombarded with his music and videos during the 1980's.  I probably would have burned any I owned, however, once I found out about his unhealthy predilections toward children.

You see, I have a very hard time separating the art from the artist.  Especially when I find the artist to be loathsome.

Case in point: Roman Polanski.

He's obviously been all over the news lately because of his recent incarceration in Europe over his past crimes in this country and his subsequent escape from the law.  Now, I've heard all the arguments regarding his actions.  Both defending the man and demonizing him.  I happen to be on the "demonize" side of the deal.  I don't care that it was a different time and a different attitude.  Bottom line, I believe that he drugged and raped that girl and he got away with it.  That, in my book, is unforgivable.  I only need to imagine that the poor girl was my daughter or niece and I'm filled with a rage that could only be quenched with his death at my hands.  Preferably a slow and painful one.

So I've generally avoided his films.  In fact, since Chinatown, the only Polanski films I have seen have been Frantic and The Ninth Gate.  Both because I didn't realize they were Polanski films until after I had seen them.  Silly, because The Ninth Gate was so evocative of Rosemary's Baby that I really should have known.

Maybe I am being pig-headed, but I don't see how producers keep funding this man's art.  I don't understand why top actors feel the need to keep working with the man.  He is a vile, creepy little gnome of a rapist and that's that.

In my humble opinion, of course.

And that is generally how it goes with me.  I'm pretty sure Slyde would agree with me here although he takes his grudges to the Nth degree ofttimes.  He still has a problem with Matthew Broderick, I believe, for killing a couple of women in Northern Ireland in an auto accident and only having to pay a $175 fine.  Ferris Killer he calls him, or something like that.  He has issues with Robin Williams, Woody Harrelson and a bunch of others as well, but I forget why.  I tend not to have as much of a problem with artists who have been involved in tragic accidents.  It's not like Broderick woke up that day and decided to kill a couple of people.  He certainly didn't ply them with alcohol and drugs before running his car into them.  Right?

So how about you?  Are you able to separate the art from the artist?  Is it a case-by-case thing or are you generally forgiving of an artist if they produce brilliant and/or enjoyable art?

I'm curious because I recently came across an artist whose personal views I find to be vile but whose art has always been both brilliant and enjoyable for me in the past.  So I'm torn.  Really for the first time in a case like this.

I'll talk more about who and why tomorrow after I hear from the madding crowd. 


Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. You can't convince me otherwise.  He is a rapist.


LegalMist said...

It is a tough question and, like you, I think probably varies depending on what, exactly, the artist did; whether they've been convicted of it (versus just accused, potentially wrongly); and if they've been convicted, whether they have owned up to it and accepted the consequences and perhaps been released.

Willie Nelson, for example, faced charges of tax evasion. I think he ended up filing bankruptcy, in which case the tax debt likely would have been non-dischargeable. He paid off whatever he was required to pay, and I feel like the poor guy has suffered enough, and so I don't hold it against him.

Michael Jackson was not convicted of molesting any kids. He seemed a little creepy, in part because of the constant plastic surgeries and hair straightening and skin whitening, and in part because he seemed to like to at least "snuggle" with kids.

(Then again, I like to snuggle with my kids, too, and there's nothing sexual about it.)

Since MJ wasn't convicted of anything, and since, in this country, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty, I tended to give him the benefit of that doubt and assume he did not, in fact, rape any children.

I was therefore able to separate the art from the rather creepy artist.

His art still wasn't really my style, and I don't own any of his records, but I can understand why people do. He was quite good at what he did.

Polanski, on the other hand, pleaded guilty to (i.e. admitted to committing) the crime (a horrible crime, I might add) and then fled prior to sentencing. He is therefore guilty as sin and should be shunned. I have never seen any of his movies, and I won't if I can help it.

I didn't know about Broderick, but I'd tend to agree with you. If it was an accident, how can we shun him or his work for that? Haven't we all made mistakes?

And people aren't perfect, so if it's a minor drug crime, or something relatively minor like shoplifting or soliciting prostitution that doesn't show an actual intent to harm other people directly, then I tend not to hold that against the artist either - unless the "artist" happens to be someone like Rush Limbaugh, who makes his living by raging about "drug-abusing lowlifes" and then hypocritically abuses drugs himself.

Then I vow never to listen to another word he says.

Oh, but wait... I never listened to him to begin with... ;)

Now that my comment is longer than your blog post, I'll stop.

Kaye Waller said...

LegalMist said it all. I second that.

livesbythewoods said...

Ooh, interesting post!

I am having a similar (but different) dilemma at the moment with a shop I usually love. They make the most gorgeous hair and body products, all animal-kind, environmentally-friendly, incredibly lovely and so on and so on.

Trouble is, they have take a very public, high-profile stance on an issue which I disagree with pretty fundamentally.

Do I ignore it and continue to support them because of all the good stuff they do (which I totally agree with), or do I boycott them because of the stance they've taken (which I don't)?

I genuinely can't decide, and I am running out of shampoo as I think about it.

Artful Kisser said...

I'm with you on Polanski. The whole saga makes my blood boil. Most particularly the plethora of those in "the industry" who support him and refer to the victim's wishes that the charges be dropped. As if it wasn't bad enough that the mongrel raped that child, but he got away with it and she's left to face the world when she should just be allowed to get on with her life. None of us would remember her name if he'd just done his time. So no. No interest in absorbing his "art".

With MJ I will always love his early days but I cannot warm to his work when he got weird. Somehow I am able to rationalise in my mind that they were two different people and something went very wrong somewhere along the line.

badgerdaddy said...

It's an incredibly tough question. Polanski is particularly tough though. Why? Because he didn't make movies by himself, it's an enormous team effort. The director is, let's be honest, no more important than any other crew member. Is Chinatown Polanski's, or is it Robert Towne's? Is it great because of Nicholson and the script? How much influence did Polanski have on it? It would be easier to do with a painter or sculptor, to be honest, or anyone that works entirely alone.

It is a very, very tough question. Volition is certainly important; though some accidents make me mad too, particularly ones involving guns. I agree 100 per cent with Bill Hicks on the guns thing: "There is absolutely no connection between having a gun and killing someone, and not having a gun and not killing someone. And you're a fool and a Communist if you suggest there is." I hope his sarcasm comes through in that quote.

Car accidents involving alcohol abuse, I despise the person involved. Even if they are a relative, they are scum. Selfish, inconsiderate, dangerous, self-absorbed, deluded arseholes. Child abuse where there's an artist involved, I just switch that person off, usually. They're just kind of cut out of my world.

Damn, it is a tough question though. What would I do if Pearl Jam came out as kiddie fiddlers? Burn their records? I honestly don't know – but I think the integrity of the artist as a human being is a big part of that artist's appeal to me.

Great WV for your blog! biercup

2abes said...

easiest question yet...he was charged and convicted of raping a teeanage girl. nothing else to say

Verdant Earl said...

Mist - Wow, you must be a lawyer or something. ;) The only thing I disagree with is your "innocent until proven guilty" views of Michael Jackson. I know there was at least one suit against him that was settled out of court and in this judge and jury's eyes...I find him guilty.

Steph - me too. Mostly.

LBTW - I'm having the same problem with a writer, and that's why I wrote this post. You have to weigh your feelings on both issues and trust your hair, er, heart! ;)

AK - There isn't enough of us who despise Polanski like he should be despised.

badger - Well, I think you overreached when you said that a director is no more important to a film than any of the rest of the crew. I believe, in general, that the director is the most influential person on the set. They can make or break a good script or cast and the really good directors (a group which I include Polanski in) put their mark on each film that they make. Something that makes it undeniably Hitchcock or Kubrick or Lean or Kurasawa.

2abes - He was charged with rape, and a number of other offenses, but most of those were dropped as a part of the plea bargain and he wound up only pleading guilty to "unlawful sexual intercourse" which is virtually the same as statutory rape in California law. So he was never convicted of anything. He still guilty as sin of drugging and raping a 13-year old in my book, though.

Avitable said...

I usually can't separate the creator of a work from the work and if the creator is a despicable person, I'm less likely to have any desire to contribute to the dissemination of their work in any capacity.

Slyde said...

you know darn well why i hate those guys....

Broderick bought off the judge and skated away paying a HUNDRED DOLLAR FINE after killing 2 people. That family did NOT get justice...

Robin Williams fucked his kids babysitter, and then left his wife who stood by him for 30 years while he was a loser/drunk to be with said babysitter.

Woody Harrelson's father is a murderer, but whenever the topic is brought up in interviews, woody goes ballistic and has a tantrum. What the fuck are we SUPPOSED to want to talk to him about? Cheers?

And while we're at it, fuck Woody Allen too.

And fuck Harrison Ford, who stood up for Polanski at the academy awards to accept the honor in his place. I guess he can afford to be alot more forgiving to polanski since it wasnt HIS daughter.

And for the record, i never called brokerick Ferris Killer, but i love it.... can i use that?

badgerdaddy said...

Well, I disagree that it's over-reaching and I thought I qualified that. There is no way I subscribe to the ridiculous 'auteur' theory of film-making - to do so is to suggest that Towne had little or no influence on Chinatowne, and nor did Robert Evans. Or Evans on Godfather, for example. Yeah, Coppola directed it, but I'm pretty sure Evans demanded and oversaw the re-edit which saw it made into a three-hour masterpiece instead of 90 minutes of who-knows-what. Spielberg on Jaws - total re-edit of the movie after he fucked it up, and now we all love it. Who is Thelma Schoonmaker? Tak Fujimoto? Cinematographers give a movie its look, as do production designers, not directors; editor can kill or create a movie by themselves! Sure, you can name Kubrick, Lean, Hitchcock but how many more with similar influence? Not many, and certainly not Polanski!

Mik said...

I am with you on this. Crap, I didn't know the Ninth gate was a Polanski flick.

Dr Zibbs said...

I agree with the Roman P. I can't understand how anyone could defend him.

white rabbit said...

Preach it Brother Earl!!!

Gotta agree.

Dr Zibbs said...

'I can't understand how anyone could defend him'.

Now that's a different matter. I'd defend anybody...

Verdant Earl said...

Avitable - I hear ya.

Slyde - See what I mean folks about taking it to another level. Being mad at Woody because his father killed someone? C'mon! You wouldn't want to talk about it either.

badger - I wasn't saying that they were the only ones responsible for the finished product. Just the most important is all. And it is in varying degrees. As for Robert Towne, let me put it this way. Polanski has made films that are considered classics both before and after Chinatown. Name anything else that Towne has done that is even in the same league as Chinatown. Bonnie and Clyde was script doctor work. So was Heaven Can Wait. Mission Impossible? C'mon. He's a one-hit wonder. Polanski isn't.

Verdant Earl said...

Mik - It was eerily similar to the formula he followed in Rosemary's Baby.

Zibbs - or work with him.

Wabbit - Anybody?

Bruce Johnson said...

Hmmm, a surprisingly intellectual post from a man that likes greasy food and bacon flavored bourbon.

It depends on the artist and the work and it cuts both ways. Polanski reached his peak in the late 60s and 70s and I haven't been to impressed with his stuff since. Mind you, this guy is somewhat of a tragic figure in someways. Born in Post WWII Poland, married to Sharon Tate, that whole Charles Manson thing, and then the rape. He obviously comes from a different world and culture.

He probably fled, more because he did not trust the American Judicial system (and neither to I for that matter....and I work in it). In his world, raping a young girl was a fine and maybe a year in jail. In ours it was life imprisonment. I can't condone what he did, but his view of the world and mindset is different. There are still large areas of the planet where selling your daughters into sex slavery is perfectly okie-dokey. Doesn't mean it is right, by our standards, but it is acceptable in theirs.

I can admire Tarentino's work, but personally, don't like it. Speilberg is competent, but I won't go see his films just because his name is attached anymore.

Life has taught me to try and understand another persons point of view and life history before I condemn them for their actions or their art. I recall that in the 90s, people were disgusted by Robert Maplethorpe's photography of gay men, but I found them fascinating, because he made me understand how homosexuals see their world and others (insert gay inuendo here).

As for Polanski, justice delayed is justice denied. He is an old man now. The only person that his incarceration serves at this point is the prosecutor that is putting another notch in his resume.

sybil law said...

I just read Bruce's comment above mine (I think), and while I get what he's trying to say, totally, I also know that it happened here, and therefore, he is subject to our laws. Our judicial system is indeed pretty fucked up, when we put people away for years for weed but repeat convicted rapists and molesters are out on parole. There's a billion other examples and more people pleasing reasons why our judicial system is screwy, but that's just one.
I hate Roman Polanski. He's a fucking troll who plied a teenage girl with drugs and alcohol to fuck her in the ass - literally. That is disgusting on any count. The fellow actors who are pretending this was "so long ago" and it doesn't matter anymore can all go to Hell as far as I'm concerned. Does (or did) the man have talent? Absolutely. Does that make him a decent person? Well, in my view, a decent man not only admits his guilt but also serves his fucking time. A spineless piece of shit runs away, as he did.
Obviously, this got me kinda riled up.
The Dogfish Head punkin ale was delicious!

Barlinnie said...

I agree in principle with Legalmist, but the Broderick incident was a farce. I have it in my head somewhere, that he was involved twice in similar death crashes.

I might be wrong..

hello haha narf said...

absolutely i can separate the art from the artist. i can appreciate a movie or song or book on its merits alone, regardless of what asshole wrote, starred, sang, etc.

that being said, i won't pay for said art if it will line the pockets of the fucker who raped little kid(s).

and anyone who stands up for a trial jumping child rapist, saying they should be somehow forgiven because so much time has elapsed? yeah, they should be beaten stupider.

hello haha narf said...

also? i think i can appreciate the art because it isn't like i am trying to be friends with the artist. if they are a good person we won't be friends if i buy their album, if they are a horrible person we aren't gonna be friends if i buy their album. considering i don't normally buy albums anyhow, it doesn't matter one way or another because my money ain't giving them the opportunity to be more of a douchebag (coughkanyecough).

Verdant Earl said...

Bruce - I never bought into the "different time, different attitude" defense. And while I find the man to be abhorrent, I don't believe it's necessary for him to serve any further jail time. The only true justice, in my mind, would have been for the girl's father or brother or uncle or somebody to punch him square in the face every day for a period of 13 years. The age of the girl. But that boat floated a long time ago. I was merely using his case as a part of my question.

Sybil - Amen, sister!

Jimmy - I dunno, but it was two women who were killed so maybe that's what you are thinking of. I'll check it out.

Becky - A new argument. I like it! You can appreciate the art and separate it from the artist, but you won't put money in their pockets by buying the album or paying to see the film. I can wrap my head around that. :) And Kanye may be the new Duke of Douche, but he ain't no kid-toucher. As far as I know. Not that it matters. I don't appreciate his "art" either way.

Bruce Johnson said...

On a follow up note, regarding seperating the art from the artist, what about those that HAVE paid for their transgressions. Should they be foregiven and their art once again be made accessable to the masses?

This whole conversation got me thinking about Michael Vick and his little pit bull dog fighting enterprise. He was charged, expelled by the NFL, went to jail and now (surprise) he is back playing in the NFL.

As a dog lover, I could not imagine what he did to those canines and personally, would not even consider paying to see him play football, nor his team play. But then again, he claims to have reformed and paid the price for his actions. This is one example where I could not seperate the artist or his art regardless, as a previous commentor mentioned, because I don't want to support or help this guy profit.

Verdant Earl said...

Bruce - Vick is a great example. Of a jackass. But yeah, I hear ya. Makes it tough for me because I am both an avid animal lover and an avid Eagles fan. It's not surprising that I haven't watched a single Eagles game this year even though I have had a few chances. Just seeing him in that uniform puts a bad taste in my mouth. But the man was convicted of his crimes and he served his time. And he seems repentant. I dunno...this is a tough one. I'd prefer if the Cowboys or the Giants had signed him. Then it would be easy for me.

Mrs. Hall said...

It all comes down to what the artist did and who he was, how it conflicts with my values and which values they have pissed on.

It also comes down to their art. If they art is worth me battling the refrain in my head whilst I enjoy their art.

The refrain being 'they did something horrific'.

so yeah, it's a balance to see what wins in my head.

does that makes sense?

Mrs. Hall said...

For example:

Polanski raped a 13 year old girl. His art will never EVER win that battle in my head because the crime overrides it.

Michael Jackson 'touched' kids. supposedly. innocent until proven guilty blah blah blah. Don't care enough about his art to refute the somewhat shakey evidence.

Jackson Pollack COMPLETE ALCOHOLIC ASSHOLE. But, never raped a kid, never touched a kid or raped a woman. He did kill someone when he was drunk in a car but gah. Not enough to discount his work. SO His art remains some of my favorite.

so there ya go!

Verdant Earl said...

Holly - Well choosing to drive a car while drunk is close enough to outright murder in my book. Good thing I don't have enough money to buy a Pollack to hang in my shitter.

Water Logged Canine said...

Polanski/Jackson? It doesn't matter. Those kids were begging for it. It's like my dad always said, you can't rape the willing.

Verdant Earl said...

WLC - That's only because you always wanted it. Too soon?

Faiqa said...

I can absolutely separate the artist from the art.

In fact, I live my life by the principle that breaks people's lives up into discrete contributions. Nobody is all bad, nobody is all good. And the bad never effaces the good.

If I didn't view things that way, I would have *killed* my parents by now.

THAT SAID, I do believe people must be held accountable for the wrong that they do. Just like the bad doesn't efface the good, it works the other way, too. All the good deeds (or art) cannot take back violations and harm.


You just rocked my world, dude.

Verdant Earl said...

Faiqa - well, he did pay a $175 fine for it.

Mrs. Hall said...


so what do you feel or rather, how would you feel if you found out Derek Jeter was using steriods.

I mean, can you separate the athlete from the game?

that's an interesting question. I'm not really a huge sports fan (ignore the giant cheese wedge bobbing on my head)but yah der, what about your baseball love and steroid scandals. what does that do you as a fan?

I have more to say about pollock I'm just too damn tired.

peace out my bloggy blog friend. :)

Anonymous said...

Polanski is a very poor example because the truth of the matter is very murky to say the least. This is a case where the devil is in the details yet everyone seems to somehow magically know what exactly happened 33 years ago.
The probation report found evidence that the victim was "willing". The mother notified the authorities. The victim did not intend to do so. Yet apparently the mother did not even attend her daughters testimony. The victim and her mother pushed hard for the plea bargain. Polanski did not and much later repudiated his plea bargain statement that he knew the victims age. Three witnesses said she could have passed for around 18.
The victim later stated that she thinks Polanski knew her age but does not say how? The victim much later said she said no but it was not rape.

Verdant Earl said...

Anon - Very concise defense of Polanski there. I have one retort...she was 13. I don't care about anything else. Imagine if she was your 13 year-old daughter.

Avitable said...

Yeah, Anonymous is an idiot. You can't be willing at 13.

Water Logged Canine said...

Not soon enough!

I like to imagine Matthew Broderick paying his $175 fine and getting away with murder set to Yello's classic hit "Oh Yeah."


PS-People who post anonymously are cowards who can shampoo my crotch.

badgerdaddy said...

Wow, you really got some great comments from that post Earl. Wicked!

Still... I can't help but think you're simplifying what I'm saying. Maybe it's simply that we disagree on the importance of the director in a movie.
Not disagreeing about Towne's career, but that's not the point I was making - the point was about one Polanski film, which is the product of more than one great mind and very clearly so. There aren't that many movies out there that have such a ridiculously brilliant script, that you walk out of thinking 'Fuck me, what a brilliant script!' are there? So that's surely as much Towne's movie as Polanski's. And Evans got Nicholson cast in it, insisted on him taking the lead, too, and pushed to make the movie all the way through even though many thought it was unfilmable (or would be unwatchable).
I'm rambling. But movies are a huge team effort, with a million influences over the finished product. The fact that the director's name comes up before the title etc is down to unions as far as I can remember. Think back to the studio system, and the director just was not important - nobody was.

Actually, thinking about it, if I stuck firmly to my principles and how I want to live my life, I would never watch another movie again. Most actors, directors and producers I've met are absolute arseholes who live in a fantasy land with no relation to reality at all.

I re-read High Concept, the Don Simpson biography recently. It's still quite fresh in my mind...

God, I really rambled there. I'll shut up now. Oh, I read the follow-up post too, which was really great also!

Verdant Earl said...

Badger - I agree that I was over-simplifying your argument. Only because I felt your statement that the director is no more responsible for the final product than anyone else in the crew was an over-simplification on it's own. Yes, the final product is a huge collaboration. I just feel that the director has more responsibility and more sway on the outcome of the film than anyone else. That's all.

From what I've read and seen, any director worth their salt is a script doctor, editor, cinematographer, etc... in his/her own right. The great ones all work with those individuals to achieve the desired outcome. That's what I meant.