Sunday, 30 August 2015

A debate about separating the Art from the Artist

It wasn’t long ago that I was talking about Hulk Hogan and his removal from the WWE and I don’t really mean to repeat that blog even if it might seem like I am but bear with me and this will all make sense I promise. Now some people would disagree with me here but wrestling is an art form, in fact it is not all that different from the world of dance, it is about selling choreographed movements which tell a story. Now while some people are appalled that Hogan there childhood hero is a racist they still don’t think that his matches should be hidden away, they can in their minds separate Hulk Hogan the person from Hulk Hogan the wrestler, the performer , the artist.

It is not exactly the first time wrestling fans have had to deal with a report which cracks one of their heroes’ halos Lex Luger was first arrested on April 19th, 2003 for beating his girlfriend and wrestling celebrity Miss Elizabeth he was charged with a misdemeanour count of battery and released on $2,500 bond. Both of the Hardy boys have been done for drugs charges, Stone Cold was arrested in 2002 and charged with the domestic abuse of his wife. Then of course there is everything that happened with Chris Benoit this is just a small sample of things but the truth is this kind of behaviour is not limited to wrestlers.

I was talking to someone else roughly my age when the Hulk Hogan news broke and his first comment was ‘’oh sheesh not another one, is there anyone from my childhood who hasn’t done something, Savile, Rolf Harris now Hogan who next? It is just not safe to like anyone in any way shape or form is it?’’

The thing is when you stop and really think about it the chances are good that if you were to look deeply in to the private lives of all of the artists you have ever appreciated or admired you would more than likely be able to find something which would in some way sour your view of them. If you were to then decide that you wouldn’t watch anything featuring anyone who has offended you on any level then it’s quite possible that you would drastically cut down the amount of things you could watch, listen to, read or experience.

A lot of people look at things such as operation Yewtree and all of the other incidents that seem to have come to light since then and think that we are in some kind of worst point in history. The real truth is that when you look back at it history is absolutely full of tales of artists behaving badly or being somehow less than what we might hope they are. Composer Richard Wagner was apparently an anti-Semite. Famous Novelist Charles Dickens of A Christmas Carol fame apparently lied and basically led a smear campaign against his wife so that he could throw her out of her home and shack up with a younger woman. These are just two examples if you dig a little deeper you can find many more.

The truth is that I don’t things have gotten any worse the simple truth is that we live in an environment where people have less and less privacy and if you say something the chances of it being recorded or found out in one way or another are much higher. There have always been rumours and jokes making out that Walt Disney was both a racist and a misogynist but the truth is that whatever he did or did not say which gave people this opinion was done in a time when we lived under far less scrutiny not only that it was during a time when it wasn’t that unusual for a man to be that way. We didn’t have much in the lines of real evidence for this until Abigail Disney, the grandniece of Walt Disney addressed the whole situation by saying that while her great-uncle was a visionary, he was also anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic. Sure some could claim she was lying but if anything you’d expect a relative to back up there relative especially when it’s a very famous long dead relative. So I guess if you want to feel guilty about watching wrestling matches staring the likes of Hulk Hogan then you need to feel equally guilty about watching anything that comes from the house of mouse.
I suppose some of it comes down to what the person actually did and how deeply the idea of it affects you. I can watch Hulk Hogan matches and take them for the art they are. Lots of other people were involved in those bouts not just his opponents but ring announcers, script writers, bookers and the same sort of thing can be said about the early Disney productions. It wasn’t like Disney wrote and hand drew everything he was just part of it, maybe an important part but still only a part. Hogan and Disney might have been racist or even just said racist things during moments of weakness but still I find it easy to push them to the side and enjoy the art.

Many people will have grown up with Disney and the idea that ‘’when you wish upon a star it makes no difference who you are, your dreams come true, much in the way that Hulkamaniacs will have thought that they could do anything if they ‘’say their prayers and take their vitamins.’’. Hulk Hogan the man might be or have been a racist but Hulk Hogan the hero the legend wasn’t after all he ‘’fights for the rights of everyman’’.  Yet it is easy to take this attitude when someone has effectively just been an asshole, when they have said or thought something that they probably shouldn’t have.
I for example can’t watch a Benoit match without being crushed by the knowledge of what he did, sometimes I start out well thinking hey that was a perfect suplex but then at some point something in me will just click and tell me this man killed his wife and child. Sometimes it is even worse I remember enjoying a film called ClownHouse as a young teen and then latter on I learned that the director Victor Salva had been molesting the film's 12-year-old star, Nathan Forrest Winters, during production, and suddenly it made me view entire segments of the film in a different way. There would be scenes where a young boy would have his top of for no reason and I would stop and wonder was the reason was connected to Salva’s desire for this child. When the artists crimes make you question parts of their work and wonder if there work was in some way inspired by the same thoughts and emotions that led to them committing there crime it is a lot harder to swallow particularly if it is a crime which personally upsets you.

So should you separate the art from the artist?  It is hard to say, I think if you were to never watch anything which featured the work of anyone who had done anything wrong then you’d have to lock yourself in a dark room and ignore everything ever released more or less but I think if you know someone has done something that deeply upsets you to the core and you look at their work and it affects you negatively then this is a perfectly normal reaction. Should the matches that involved Benoit be banned, should a film like clownhouse be banned when we know what we know about Victor Salva? Well Benoit is dead and so he cannot profit from these matches which on the one hand helps with the argument for letting people watch or buy them but then I don’t really like the idea of someone making money on them, maybe the only decent answer is to make any profit that comes from there purchase or viewing go to support a charity which will help people and in some small way bring some good from an awful situation. As for Clownhouse well I guess I feel the same, I do not want Victor Salva to profit from any future release or viewing of the film but then I also recognise that the film is the work of far more people than just him, it might in fact be some actor or crew members only contribution to the world of film. In the end sometimes there are no easy answers because unfortunately the world is not an easy place to live in.

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