________ ________ ________
2020-05-24 / \/ \/ / \
/ __/ /_ _/
I saw something on Twitter a month or so / _/ / /
ago that I thought was mildly interesting \_______/_\___/____/\___/____/_
and it got me thinking. There's a / \/ \/ / \
social/political cartoonist on there who's / _/ /_ _/
getting some traction but is an asshat. Some /- / _/ /
of his work is quite clever though, whether \________/\________/\___/____/
it's agreeable or not.
It might be just me but I feel like that is the role of a cartoonist, to
lampoon everyone, "good" or "bad" and if your character or your ideology is
too fragile to survive a joke at their expense without outrage then maybe you
need to take a good look at why.
Anyway, I don't want to soapbox.
The brief sideshow got me thinking about H.P. Lovecraft and how, despite
having a reputation as being xenophobic and notoriously racist, even for a
time when racism was prominent, his works are highly valued by people who are
staunchly against those things.
How often do you see cutesy Cthulhu merch side-by-side on a store shelf
with progressive titles like Steven Universe? How often do you see a
cute-thulu or Hello Cthulhu badge adorning someone's coat or bag, side-by-side
with badges proclaiming their pronouns and sexuality?
It's a curious pop culture blind spot.
But it's also a really good example of why being able to separate art from
artist is important. Lovecraft's stories are fantastic, he quickly builds
these haunting, fantastic worlds in only a handful of pages and even to this
day his works retain their shine. They've been so influential on so much of
horror since, too. It's hard to imagine what the horror landscape would look
like without Lovecraft's influence.
A world where those stories were censored, shunned or socially forbidden
would truly be poorer for it.
I quipped on fedi that it's real strength of generation X to be able to
make that distinction between art and artist and enjoy "problematic" content
and media without being changed by it and I feel like it's something difficult
for younger generations to understand, especially in a post-social media
world. It's hard to explain to someone who routinely "fears for their life"
from throw-away statements by nobodies on Twitter that it's possible to enjoy
something like Song of the South for example, for the storytelling and the
beauty of the animation alone and not have it immediately turn you into a card
carrying member of the KKK.
Actually, now that I think about it, Disney is probably another good
example of this blind spot.
I'm rambling now but before I vanish back into the ether I want to share a
kind of personal anecdote. There's two people I orbit and both of them produce
loosely similar content who's focus is digital preservation. One I find quite
obnoxious, he's hyper-political, dismissive and rude to people providing
criticism and, while I'd never say he takes credit for other people's work, he
certainly doesn't promote the people doing the work as much as the work
itself. If it's something he's done, he'll put his name on it, if it's
something someone else has done you'll usually see him say "we" or name the
project. The other person is largely apolitical or keeps his politics to
himself, he's genuine and open and welcomes conversation and criticism and he
thanklessly dedicates himself to his work.
The content from person one is generally welcomed on the Internet and
considered proper, the content from person two is generally frowned upon and
considered problematic but in this context, his "art" is his ability to
continue to produce the content and less the content itself. It's hard to
explain without providing a lot of background but bear with me.
Here's the rub; because the content from person one is approved of, any
reservations I have about the content because of the content creator are
expected to be shrugged off by separating art from artist but in the reverse,
the content is bad but the artist is good - and if I explained to you the
nature of the "art" and the unbelievable resilience of the artist without
context of who it was or why they were doing what they do you would be shocked
- I'm not afforded the luxury of that same separation. I'm not allowed to say
that I like and respect this person for how they're doing what they do because
why they do what they do is viewed by some as wrong.
It's only acceptable for me to separate art from artist when it suits
people who don't have the need. They like the art, they like the artist, I
need to shut up and lump it. They hate the art, they hate the artists, I need
to shut up and lump it.