I’ve been avoiding the news again. Instead, I’ve been thinking about satire and intuitive art and how most satire I’ve experienced lately has been about main characters that just don’t get it in a way that most people just don’t get it. And I’ve been thinking about how not getting it boils down to not understanding that when we outsource our choices, we outsource our lives.
I think that satire can be done well – in a way that’s more self-deprecating (Conan and Louis style) than vicious and bitter toward someone who hurt the artist. I think when we come at our own faults in a humorous, yet ultimately accepting way, we actually contribute something extremely valuable to the human experience.
Full disclosure: I’m a huge advocate for non-violence, and I’ve spent so much time thinking about the subtitles and intricacies of violence – the actual definition, the continuum of actions, how one subtle and simple act that is intended to affect one human actually ripples out to every person in that one human’s life, and therefore to every human in each of those human’s lives…
And this round and round I’ve been having about satire (does it do more harm than good) has me re-thinking my last post, where I fully supported the encouragement and development of intuitive art. When I wrote that, I was thinking about art from the heart, not satire, which is literally ““. Ridicule is a form of violence. Obviously there are more visual forms of violence, like gun shot wounds, amputated limbs and burn marks, but that doesn’t take away on any level the reality that ridicule is a form of violence. There is intent to hurt, destroy or create suffering, judgement in some way when we ridicule.
So, how can satire do more harm than good? Well, I feel it perpetuates violence precisely because the people who identify with the main characters often do not get that it’s satire. They don’t know themselves very well. Getting to know themselves isn’t even on their radar. It’s not even a thing that exists. And it most likely will never exist until or unless some experience in their lives creates a strong enough motivation to think about it as a possibility. Because they outsource.
Before James Gandolfini shot the last season or two of The Sopranos, he publicly struggled with the idea of what he expressed as perpetuating negative cultural stereotypes. Let’s think for a minute about someone who watched the character Tony, a sociopath mass murderer who fucked every piece of ass he wanted while he encouraged his wife to stay busy with a building project. He manipulated everyone he met, everyone he knew. He hated his son, pushed him around, smacked him around, threatened him, verbally abused him. He tried to control his daughter’s decisions with bribery, pressure through his wife, and coercion. He was not a good fucking guy.
But in the context of each storyline, the writers were able to create situations which either evened out the score or showed him in a sympathetic light. They always redeemed him somehow.
Before I go any further, let me make myself very clear: I am in no way putting blame on art for the actions of any person who has the capacity to use his/her free will to make his/her own life decisions. Not in any way.
What I’m saying is that many people these days live by outsourcing their choices, and therefore their lives, because for whatever reason they are unable or unwilling to see that they can make these decisions from within.
So, what we have is a few different societies colliding. Historically, we have outsourced our knowing ourselves and our free will for a while. We gave it to the churches, we gave it to the philosophers, we gave it to the poets and the Greek Gods, and we gave it away because we were never really sure that we could find it within. But we’re coming to an end of that, slowly. In this slow coming end we have a clash of people who look within and people who still outsource.
When we have writers who look within writing satire which is being watched/read/viewed by people who outsource, what ends up happening is a weird distortion of idolizing a godlike creature in an image of themselves without getting the satire, therefore believing (however incorrectly, believing all the same) that what these characters are doing has not only been condoned by the authors/screenwriters/etc, but also by a wide portion of the public. Obviously it’s not okay to murder people. But what about the other stuff? The philandering? The coercion? The blatant manipulation? I am starting to believe there is a decent-sized population out there who see the existence and popularity of certain characters as an approval of their behavior.
Is it the fault of the artist that some people cannot understand satire or recognize it? Nope, not one bit. And if you want to end the conversation there, we can all brush our hands off and walk away free of any responsibility to our fellow humans.
Without any intention at all on the part of writers, what is happening is people with distorted thinking idolize satirical characters and continue to act violently to those in their own lives. It’s accidentally perpetuating violence because the ridicule is too complicated for some to understand.
That being said, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this type of violence (sideways helplessness, anger, etc) would exist and continue if there was not one shitty character on t.v. or in the movies. It really would. Art is not the cause in any way of this behavior. It all comes from within – within people who are not able to look within, and therefore need to project onto those around them feelings of self-hatred, rage, and deeply disguised helplessness.
But is art helping the situation? Is art, one of the freest media left in first world countries, doing anything to change our fucking lives? Or are we just holding up a mirror and saying, fuck this. This shit is disgusting. Can’t you see yourselves? And in this holding up of a mirror, who are we really speaking to? Are we speaking to those who cannot understand? Those who only see this mirror in a fun house mirror capacity? Or to those who do understand as a letting of our frustration and a commiseration for being in this dicked up world?
Hey, whoa there, don’t shit in my face. I’m just doing my art. I’m just a person. Is it art’s job to change the world? Should I expect more of art than a shout out to and comfort midst the squalor? Certainly not from everyone, as artists go through stages just like everyone else. But what this round and round really comes down to is: why does art matter?
There are more questions than points tonight, but I think both the questions and points are necessary in this weird society filled with vast, unmeasurable gradients that some of us are trying to navigate. Is it possible with people so polarized to even speak to everyone? Or does all art become something only people on certain levels of awareness can reasonably access in a meaningful way.