Wait till the MeToo mob hears about Caravaggio...
Should all works - past, present, and future - by artists caught in the #metoo trap be banished forever?
One really wonders if that's what it's coming to, because Harper's columnist Lionel Shriver, in an essay adapted for the New York Post, has noticed a problem:
For reasons that escape me, artists’ misbehavior now contaminates the fruits of their labors, like the sins of the father being visited upon the sons. So it’s not enough to punish transgressors merely by cutting off the source of their livelihoods, turning them into social outcasts, and truncating their professional futures. You have to destroy their pasts. Having discovered the worst about your fallen idols, you’re duty-bound to demolish the best about them as well.
Shriver cites the distributor pullings of works by "great" artists such as Louis C.K., Roseanne Barr, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, and others of the Hollywood ilk. I recall reading that Lady Gaga said she got rid of some tape she made with another one credibly accused of sex harassment, so I guess we can add him. 'Great' (which shows up in the headline) can probably be argued about some of these guys, but that's actually irrelevant, they're all quite talented, and most important, a precedent has been set.
Shriver talks about why that's such a problem:
What artists of every stripe care about most is what they have made. The contemporary impulse to rebuke disgraced creators by vanishing their work from the cultural marketplace exhibits a mean-spiritedness, a vengefulness even, as well as an illogic. Why, if you catch someone doing something bad, would you necessarily rub out what they’ve done that’s good? If you’re convicted of breaking and entering, the judge won’t send bailiffs around to tear down the tree house you built for your daughter and to pour bleach on your homemade pie.
For artists, the erasure of their work may be a harsher penalty than incarceration or fines. Eliminating whole series from streaming platforms, withdrawing novels from bookstores and canceling major gallery retrospectives constitute, for those in the creative professions, cruel and unusual punishment.
Stalin used to like to make people into 'non-persons' for their political transgressions. Today we are seeing the same thing being done to artists no matter what the public wants. Flawed actor, caught sex-harassing? Erase his memory!
And I can add that this is being done no matter how many innocent people it hurts. Remember the actor who was mocked for being seen working at Trader Joe's? Recall that he was a refugee from the Cosby show erasures, getting no royalties for his work and reduced to retail work. Apparently, the iconclasts smashing and pulling these collective works of art with a flawed star couldn't care less about all the other artists whose work also get erased.
Here's the bigger problem: With a precedent set, don't think that such erasures of art won't spread much further than the Hollywood miscreants.
Anybody remember Caravaggio? The man was a thug, a true, bona fide thug, constantly getting into knife fights, constantly losing the trust of his patrons, and dying a miserable death after yet another knife fight on a Mediterranean beach of infected wounds while on the lam from the law. He hung out with whores, took other people's girlfriends, and seemed as well to have a taste for little boys and was once chased out of a school for his excessive 'gazes' at the kids. Rest assured, it's quite likely he was a pervert.
Any student of art is always left wondering how a thug could be so guided by angels in the depth and breadth of his beautiful masterpieces. Yet those paintings weren't done by angels, they were done by a thug. And we can still appreciate them - as well as look on in wonder at the paradox of the flawed personality of the artist and the output of his work.
It's not just Caravaggio, he's just the one who leapt out. Chekhov had a mistress, that's sexist enough in the #MeToo era, do we get rid of him, too? And all of this comes in the context of a broader censorship already going on. There are writers whose work is being erased because of the ignorant misreading of their author's intentions - think: Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. There are also statues that are being taken down because leftists don't like the heroes depicted or the thinking of those who erected those statues. It's not enough to disagree, the work itself must be destroyed. It all constitutes an amazing effort to obliterate history, same as Pol Pot sought to do, and start with a Year Zero, as the French revolutionaries tried to do.
It never ends well. Shriver is persuasive and she is very right: This crap with the television artists needs to be nipped in the bud.