Friday, December 22, 2006

Do I Care???

I'm intrigued by the argument going on about Michael Crichton over HERE. The short and not so sweet of it is that it appears the man wrote a character into one of his novels for the express purpose of saying mean things about someone he was mad at. Because of this, a whole bunch of people are dissing his work and rattling sabers about what a scumbag the writer is. They also take great offense at the fact that Crichton has a different take on the issue of global warming that they do.

So, what I'm wondering is this: Michael Crichton aside, in general if some sort of entertainer or artist (or for that matter car salesman or grocery store owner) has views or habits or behavior I don't like or disapprove of, what bearing should that have on how I evaluate the merits of his or her work?

If someone is a good musician should I avoid their music if I have evidence that person is cruel to cats? Or if I disagree with their politics? I never was a Dixie Chicks fan...but I gotta say I was baffled by the huge controversy over their political comments. What the heck did that have to do with whether or not you like their records?

We live in a pluralistic society where we all have the right to hold and express differing views. I just don't think it's all that important for me to agree with someone in order to appreciate the work the do.

On the other hand, I would have reservations about doing business with someone I found truly reprehensible. The questions is, where do I draw the line??

I totally disapprove of Larry Flynt and everything the man represents. I would never in a million years purchase any of the pornography he has produced. However, should my contempt for that part of his values and business block me from doing any sort of commerce with him if he were to open up some OTHER kind of enterprise that offered something good I did value? I honestly don't know.

I very much enjoyed some of Crichton's early work... others I found contrived. He could be a saint and it would not make his crappy books any better. He could be a contemptible villain and that would not change the fact that I was very much entertained and intrigued by some of his writing.

Recognizing that ALL human beings are flawed creatures who at times do stupid things, at what point to I take my ball and go home, refusing to do any sort of business with someone based on their badness, their stupidity, or their "wrong" views?

Kelly, you've definitely got me thinking with this one.


Marie said...

The Seinfeld the other night was the one where Elaine refuses to eat at Poppy's restaurant when she learns that he's against abortion. And then of course it bleeds over into her love life -- she finds the perfect man -- thoughtful, funny, etc., but has to dump him when she learns he's also anti-abortion.

I confess that I've been cutting Mel Gibson slack over the years -- pretending he's a better actor than he is -- because I perceive him as this perfect faithful husband and loving father with a Mormon-sized Catholic brood. His backstory has made his onscreen presence more appealing to me. The problem with that is that when he had his little anti-semitic outburst earlier this year I was sent into a crisis. Should I patronize his movies anymore, or not?? Does anti-Semite cancel out Family Man?? Why do people have to be so complicated??

It's all very silly, but I do it anyway.

Belladonna said...

Yeah, as irrational as it may be, the halo effect is clearly and aspect of how we tend to perceive others;

Logically we may acknowledge that ugly people can be kind or people who are quite talented in one area may be dreadful at something else. Yet we still have a tendency to assume negative things about people once our attention latches on to one primary flaw and to expect good things from others based on some virtue or skill that may be entirely irrelevant to other areas. Those sort of faulty assumptions are why tall, attractive people get hired over very capable, although less aesthetically pleasing folk. It's why we shy away from someone who "LOOKS LIKE A BUM" without taking the time to notice the heart of the human being behind the tattered clothing and matted hair.

Even though as a sociologist I am very aware of the process of halo effect and willfully try to not let it influence me, it still does.
I can choose to go past my aversion to those who seem creepy or weird and deliberately reach out to them. But sadly, that initial recoil IS there, and something I work on all the time to overcome.

What I am far less conscious of is all the ways I give positive marks to someone who is attractive, talented or "one of us" which may or may not be deserved. I don't want to become more cynical, but I do recognize that in big ways and small - assuming good things about someone that are not accurate can lead to trouble down the road. I’m not so concerned about getting duped by movie stars or sports figures since the stakes are pretty low in that regard. However, in our immediate personal lives, who we trust and what we anticipate from others can get pretty skewed as a result of this stuff.

Ya know, they say Ted Bundy was an attractive, charismatic guy, which is why people opened up to him and let him into their lives.

Many an embezzler or breaker of hearts has gotten away with all sorts of heinous behavior simply because the "SEEMED" so nice.

Anonymous said...

Well, I see it a little diffrently. If I pay money to listen to music that is what I want to hear music. I do not want to hear the views of celbs. Additionally, if the public wishes to impose boycots for the actions of celbs that is their choice. You pay your money and you take your chances when you stray off course. So, I do not think the Dixie Chicks should complain so much. They should of thought of the possible outcomes of their actions and be ready to pay the piper for their words. There is no freedom to say what you want with protection from public scorn.

Marie said...

When I was in high school our seminary teachers challenged us for a brief period to limit ourselves to music by artists whose personal lives didn't violate the standards of the LDS church in any dramatic way (I think what they were after here was sexual immorality, whether heterosexual or homosexual; drug use; etc.) At the time that seemed reasonable (though difficult because I had then, as now, a music addiction). When I've looked back at that little episode I've been unsure how I felt about it. On one hand, kids and teenagers are especially susceptible to the celebrity behind the movie/music -- they are in the process of forming their own identity and so maybe it's particularly precarious for them to consume entertainment by a celebrity whose private life is less than stellar. Maybe that was the idea behind their "challenge." But it's darned hard to prescreen the private lives of artists and actors, unless they're the ones splashed all over the tabloids. I think if I were a parent I'd be much more concerned with those celebrities who advertise their private "undesireable" traits to the world in a dogmatic or tawdry way -- who have a soapbox to the side of the stage that they feel entitled to (e.g. Elton John and his recent "banning all religions" comment). As for adults whose identities are more gelled, I don't think it's worth talking about unless there's a lot of nastiness in the art itself.

Jettboy said...

"Should I patronize his movies anymore, or not?? Does anti-Semite cancel out Family Man?? Why do people have to be so complicated??"

OH COME ON, you patronize all kinds of artists that have opposite views as your own. Just because this one happens to be reported that shouldn't change your mind if you want to see a movie that much. How many artists do you really know the views of? My guess is that, from your description, 90 percent of them have more serious moral differences to you than Mel Gibson.

Now, that doesn't mean you shouldn't boycott if there is a particularly offensive actor. I know there are some who I don't watch because they disgust me as people or spouted political or moral views. However, they usually are involved with artistic projects I don't like anyway. If an actor, writer, director, etc. is really good it does me no good to skip them. A lot of other people are just as inclined to support them.

The only REAL boycott I have is to not watch R rated movies. That doesn't have anything to do with the quality of those shows (I understand that argument against not watching them), but because my convictions have to start somewhere. Everything else is a case-by-case.

As for Mel Gibson, I am not going to see his movie for a different reason than what he spouted in a drunken rage. Rather, the movie and the R rating doesn't appeal to me.

Marie said...

I'm really bad at doing facetious in print -- I should stop because it gets me in trouble a lot. I'm only half serious about Mel. I have felt a swing between putting him on a (short) pedestal and then putting him in the doghouse, but if he were in a movie I really wanted to see, his "halo" (as Belladonna put it) or lack thereof wouldn't really affect whether or not I went to see it, though it might make the difference between whether I paid $8 to see it or waited for the DVD. It does make a difference, but not a dramatic one. (Charlie Sheen, on the other hand, I avoid like the plague. Good thing he's not a good actor.) I was exaggerating the slight (though real) puzzlement I felt when presented with those conflicting images of Mel's private self.

I understand your R-rated thing. I've picked that as my line, too -- not because the MPAA ratings system is perfect (or even very good), and not because there aren't a bazillion raunchy PG-13 movies that are far more objectionable than substantive and thoughtful R-rated films, but because I have to draw a clear line for myself somewhere so that my media addiction doesn't take me ugly places, and because I can't spend all my waking hours researching movies for myself.

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