Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Art vs. The Artist

I like reading Ratfist. Actually, I like a lot of Doug TenNapel's work; Earthworm Jim, Creature Tech, Gear. And then I read about a political debate he had on his comment section. Actually, I read about the abuse he was getting, as I didn't wander into Ratfist's comment section very often. I did read his blog posts underneath each of his pages though, and that's where I heard about the comments incident.

So a quick google of the situation later and it became apparent that Doug's conservative. I always suspected he had a Christian religious background due to the mythology that creeps into his work. I never minded it because it didn't really matter. But what was being discussed in those comment pages does matter. It was about the legalisation of gay marriage.

I'm a big proponent of gay marriage. I wasn't until I saw an episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (created by Aaron Sorkin, king of screen writers). Before it, I thought that civil unions took care of the issue. In the episode, one of the main characters explains what's wrong with civil unions as "there's no way to get to the end of that sentence without saying that homosexual love is something less than heterosexual love". And that one line suddenly convinced me. Regardless of the legal differences (even if there aren't any), allowing someone to hold onto that word as the purview of straight people is nothing less than homophobia in the worst way.

All of which is my roundabout way of saying, I was taken aback. I didn't know what to think. I'm also a big proponent of separating the art from the artist, and have argued passionately for this case against people who claim that they never want to see a Tom Cruise flick because he got up on a sofa and is crazy (there's nothing wrong with getting up on a sofa. Anyone who's been in love will tell you that. Belief in Xenu however...). Or people who like to claim that they can't watch Russell Crowe due to his behaviour outside the screen. It never made sense to me; no matter how mind-blowingly insane or how enormous a jackass someone might be outside their work, to us the consumer, the work is all that matters. Sure, if I'm hiring one of them, I might have a reason to question their behaviour. But when it's just the finished product, why should it matter?

And yet, with TenNapel, it does. At least, to me it does. Why is the real question. Maybe it's because the belief he's holding is, instead of just being something that influences how one acts, is instead aimed at the curtailing of a liberty of another. And I could never stand for that. And because of that, it's no longer a question of enjoying the work. It's suddenly a question of supporting the product put out by someone against gay marriage. To put it more dramatically; would you buy ANYTHING, if it was made by a Nazi? A proponent of the death of Jews, and really any minority not of the Aryan nation? 

But flag-burning could be seen as something that affects one's liberty, and if he had spoken against that I wouldn't have cared. Not that I don't have a position on that, it's just that it doesn't matter to me as much as the gay marriage thing, apparently. Weirder still, I'm not gay, so it's not some kind of personal attack on me that's causing this reaction. 

Instead, perhaps it's the difference in the relationship between the art and the artist. The actors act. They pretend to be something they're not, saying the words that someone else has come up with. So regardless of what they do on screen, it's hard to see a corollary between their behaviour and their art as their behaviour IS their art. They have to control it. But with TenNapel, he writes, draws, inks and I think colours Ratfist. Suddenly every story point, every bit of dialogue has a hidden meaning. I mean, they don't, but suddenly that's how it feels.

At the end of the day, we all make choices, and it is these choices that define us. And I am choosing to continue to read Ratfist, and enjoy TenNapel's various work. Were we ever to engage in conversation over this issue, I would come at him with all the passion and verve I could muster, but I won't stop reading his work. And to those of you who would claim that I'm compromising my ethics, I say to you that no one ever changed someone's mind with a closed fist. Removing ourselves from those whom we disagree with, robs us of the chance to convince them. Besides, "so long as there are two people on the planet, someone is going to want someone dead" - Sniper, Team Fortress 2.

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