I have a conundrum, my dotcomrades. I recently read a post by one of my writing heroes that made me want to transform his body of work into a paper-mache sculpture of his own severed head. Frank Miller’s work has been an inspiration to me ever since I was a kid. His work on graphic novels like Sin City is nothing short of legendary. Miller was among the forefront of writers in the 1980s that convinced wider audiences that comic books weren’t solely a medium for brightly coloured, cliché-ridden characters. His work demonstrated that comics could be an excellent medium for communicating gritty, grisly stories.
"You know what makes me mad? When people think I am a graphic novel adaptation of that quirky 90s sitcom 'Spin City.'"
However, around a week ago, Miller wrote this post discussing his opposition to the occupy movement. Fair enough, everyone’s got a right to their opinion. But he then proceeds to call them ‘louts’ ‘thieves’, ‘rapists’ and ‘pond scum’ and furthermore make the insane argument that because ‘America is at war with Islamicism’ then all other struggle is basically a waste of time. It’s one thing to disagree with a political movement, but to so hatefully vilify them and then start making insane Islamophobic connections is quite another. I mean, I'm strongly opposed to the values of the American Tea Party movement, but I'm not going to go around addressing them with awful and unjustified slurs. Particularly when they are weird and crazy enough to embarrass themselves on their own without needing my help.
"Yeah! Cut funding to education! Who needs it?"
I now look at Miller's work with a feeling that I would describe as a combination of 'cute little puppies being shoved in a blender' and 'listening to Duck Sauce's Barbara Streisand on repeat for 36 hours.' Is it really possible to enjoy the output of an artist, which is an indubitably brilliant collection of work, whilst hating its creator who, according to recent evidence, is something of a fuckwit?
I’m reminded of a costume party I attended a few years ago when a Michael Jackson song came on the stereo and everyone proceeded to whoop and holler and dance around the living room until some girl ran towards the stereo yelling “NO! TURN THAT OFF! HE IS A PAEDOPHILE!” I have to be honest, she seemed a little crazy, and not only because of the Britney Spears costume she was wearing. A bunch of people turned to her and said, "Relax, it's just a song!" But maybe she had a point. Lately I feel like that girl dressed as Britney Spears. And not in a closet cross-dressing kind of way.
There are plenty of other examples. Bill Murray, famous for both his extraordinary body of work and his idiosyncratic approach to the movie industry (he doesn’t have an agent, manager or email) has a record of domestic violence. Jack Kerouac was infamously racist, the Nobel prize winning author V.S. Naipul recently made some insanely sexist remarks and James Brown also had a history of domestic abuse. You can see him drunkenly-sort-of-half-denying-it-in-between-singing-his-own-songs-and-wearing weird-giant-yellow-glasses here:
I'm not able to separate the art from the artist. Every time someone puts on 'Papa's Got a Brand New Bag' a part of me lights up and wants to dance whilst my guilt complex simultaneously kicks into overdrive. I feel like I'm placing one hand on the world's largest diamond and the other in the hand of a rabid crocodile (crocodiles can get rabies, right?) What about you, residents of internetland? Can you happily sing along to Wonderwall despite the fact that Liam Gallagher is a pretentious, arrogant git? I'd love to hear your thoughts (just not the really weird ones, even I have my limits).
In conclusion: seriously Frank, what the fuck.
One response to “Can you hate the artist but love their art?”
i think you gotta be able to draw a line in the sand and then redraw it when the tide washes away your markings.
Hitler was a vegetarian, doesnt mean I think he’s a better person because of it. Dita Von Teese is a total vintage betty who my mum reckons is a really great role model in terms of body image, but Ive also seen her in extremely graphic pornography that probably strikes her off that ‘list of people my mum would continue to think were cool if she knew about their other hobbies’. Kurt Cobain championed a come as you are approach to life that made (and continues to make) millions of suburband nobodies feel like someone cares- but shot himself in the head. Elliot Smith might have made quiet indie rock cool again but ole uncle stab stab also commited suicide in the most violent way possible, completely fucking up his girlfriends life forever.
In other words, creativity and the fruit of its labour is more to do about aspiration than reality, and as such should be able to be seen independantly from its maker.