Does Art Influence Society?
Want or Need?
Should artists give what people want or what they need?
Do you think that society imitates art or movies? Or do movies and art influence society? So we see more blood, guts, and gore in thrillers; is it because we have seen it and it "doesn't do it" for us anymore? Or do the artist/directors/producers want to keep pushing the threshold to cause more and more shock value and keep people coming/paying?
I find people are generally curious about things that are evil/intemperate and maybe they just can't help themselves. We know we should turn away, don't look at or listen to what's bad but we just can't help it. Isn't that why there are so many cars slowing down to rubberneck an accident scene? We just can't help ourselves. As artists, should we give people what they want because they pay us, or should we be innovative and creatively giving them what they need to see, such as truth and beauty, love and justice? Or can we? Just asking.
Are paintings like the Norman Rockwell classics a thing of the past. Sure, we love them. The painting “Saying Grace” recently sold for $45 million dollars, proving there is a market for nostalgia. But is that all it is, nostalgia? Don’t we want to see more wholesome, uplifting art in this country, or is it just that paintings by Rockwell are a time cut from the past? I want to be another Rockwell type painting pictures of the true good in this country and not the evil zombie side of life. Does this mean that my work will never sell until I am dead? Perhaps. It’s true that Rockwell’s work is a time of the past. When was the last time you saw someone able to stand up and speak in a town meeting like “Freedom of Speech” or a family dragging a freshly cut Christmas tree back from the woods? Not too often, to be sure.
Massacres and Shootings
I think some movies are truly for shock factor (i.e.: the "Saw" movies), but I also think that movies are both inspired from events in society and society, in turn, is affected by movies (i.e.: the "Dark Night Rises" Colorado Massacre). Life imitates art and vice-versa. I'm not quite sure what human nature's fascination is with bloody, violent, or shock-factor art and films, but it goes back thousands of years; in ancient Rome, the bloodier and more violent gladiator arenas or public executions were the better attended. It kept the people entertained and not rioting against Roman authority. Perhaps it's our primal animal instincts that draw out society's fascination with violence or the macabre. I think some artists and filmmakers are simply drawing on those primal instincts, but art shouldn't be completely based on the shock-factor but should draw out inspiration, creativity, and a lighter side of human nature. I think Plato would agree.
Good and Just
I have been contemplating it for some time. It really disturbs me when things like the Colorado Massacre happen, and I keep wondering what is going on with people and art. But I guess it is more like which came first, the chicken or the egg. Yes, art imitates society and vise Versa… but do we really need to keep following that spiral downward? Isn't there some sort of moral obligation to elevate the Good, Kind, Encouraging, Just, Helpful, and Hopeful. As artists it's up to us, isn't it? I think Plato would agree with that.
Does society influence art or art influence society?
We Want More
It seems the more of anything we have in our lives, the more we take it for granted (in general), and thus we want more and more. It's like an addiction. We love music so we want more: the radio must be on in the car, in our homes, at work, plugged into our ears when we run and exercise, etc. Is that bad? Not on the surface but it makes me wonder when the addiction will end. You can’t always have more.
"Imaginary evil is romantic and varied: real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring: real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating. ‘Imaginative literature,’ therefore, is either boring, or immoral, or a mixture of both."— Simone Weil
Literature, Movies, TV and Painting
It has oftentimes been said among patrons of literature that your story is only as strong as your villain. In my opinion, conflict is the heartbeat of any dramatic story. Once the conflict is resolved, the story is over, and conflict in a story is always brought about by some form of evil, suffering, or misfortune. Perhaps that is why we find it so intriguing. The thrills of fear and pity, with none of the actual risk.
That said, I think it just makes our job as artists, writers, and musicians all the more important. We have to make a statement for good so exciting and enticing that it competes with all the other things out there that bring the moral fiber of society down.
"The Christian writer does not decide what would be good for the world and proceed to deliver it. Like a very doubtful Jacob, he confronts what stands in his path and wonders if he will come out of the struggle at all."— Flannery O’Connor
As an artist, I am essentially a storyteller. As a storyteller, my goal is to speculate upon and the issues at hand around us, both the good and the bad and the moral ambiguities that go along with them, and invite the audience to explore them with me in the controlled environment of creative storytelling. I've found from experience that as an artist we usually cannot change the culture by conscientiously trying to do it. All we can do is to offer a starting point encouraging people to think, not an ending point telling people what to think. So long as we do our work honestly and with a sincere passion for the work, it can and often will, positively influence those who choose to partake of it. My intention as a storyteller is to discover things through the story, not to tell people things.
"Propaganda occurs when a writer is directly trying to persuade, and in that sense, propaganda is not bad. … But persuasion is not story, and when you try to make a story out of persuasion then you’ve done something wrong to the story. You’ve violated the essence of what a story is.”— Katherine Paterson
Horror and Nightmares
The sublime is always intriguing [sublime is not just beautiful, it is more the beauty of mystery--good or bad]. I actually don't look at an accident, I don't want that imprint in my mind...not that I don't want to look; I just know better now. I don’t watch horror movies either. I stopped long ago because the nightmares kept me up for weeks and I still had to function, go to work, take care of children and a husband, etc. The bottom line to the last question I think is the reason for making art.
Do we make art to edify or to shock? Is art, movies, music, literature, etc., supposed to make the world better or just entertained? Yes, it is entertaining, but not all of it is edifying. Not all art is good for children to see or hear or read. My rule of thumb has been, if I shouldn’t let my children see that, then maybe I shouldn’t see it either.
My Own Art
The Moral Condition
I think what I am getting at is that I see a trend... not for good art but for the almighty dollar that demands a certain kind of art. I remember when I was a child; there was some pretty terrible racism all around me. My uncle came over one day and he and my father was laughing about the bombing of a church in the south where some black Sunday school children were killed. It is very embarrassing to admit coming from a family like that. Yet when Roots aired, my entire family was riveted to the TV (as were a lot of Americans were) for a week. They were changed by it. An awareness took place that week... something we (I guess I have to include myself) had never thought of before. It was a different point of view... a walk in another man's shoes, as it were. Did Alex Haley create this work as propaganda? No. But this was innovative art from a very authentic place that changed lives and improved a morally dark condition. I think it's time for it again. Wouldn’t you agree?
"Generality is the enemy of all art."— Konstantin Stanislavsky
Issues That Need To Be Addressed
I have several issues that I think need addressing. I think it is time for another Alex Haley-type epic to address the severe underground racism that has emerged recently (or is it just that it has had the light thrown onto it), but I don't feel qualified to address something I have only seen and felt from the outside. How can I ever know fully what it means to be black in America today? But there are other issues that are screaming for attention as well: child abuse/neglect, child abductions, childhood obesity, cyberbullying, dumbing down of the educational system, RAD, ADD, ADHD, and other childhood diseases/conditions that need cures or at the very least understanding and awareness. I could go on and on.