Thursday, September 14, 2017

Are Artists an Intellectual and Moral Authority?

Famous artists are often treated like some kind of superhumans with an accordingly superhuman authority, even on subjects they have nothing to do with. What are the consequences?

We can't trust anyone expressing his or her opinion publicly.
And how can we consider someone so untrustworthy an intellectual and moral authority?

You see this quote often. Artists, let's say the actors Ex and Why, say that Donald Trump is bad, that everyone should work together to fight world hunger, cancer and dictatorships, that misogyny is horrible and so on. And for some reason the more widely known Ex and Why are, the more weight their words get. As if famous artists weren't just normal humans like you and me.

Getting famous people to support one's cause is an old, widely known and widely used marketing strategy that benefits both sides: People, organizations and everyone whose agenda Ex and Why support get more attention and more money (if they collect donations). And since artists usually support causes that are considered good by most people, they get more positive attention by the media, more popularity and eventually more money.

Famous artists are people looked up to. Their opinion matters. Even if it is wrong, opportunistic or just a marketing strategy. Isn't it questionable?

I don't want any debates on actual political and social issues, so I'll keep this post rather abstract.

An Artist Is Not an Expert


Well, it's hard to argue that Donald Trump tends to behave in a very provocative way, to put it mildly. But what about more complicated matters? Conflicts with a century-long history, complicated cases you need weeks and months of research to really understand, details not talked about in the media for various reasons? What is an artist's statement worth if he or she is not a political scientist, not a historian or lacks understanding of a foreign culture?

Objectively, it shouldn't be worth much. Yet famous artists often have opinions on matters that aren't their expertise and their fans tend to follow them. So if someone manages to convince Ex to put her name under their agenda, they automatically get thousands of new supporters along with only one actress. And what if this someone is using Ex' lack of knowledge to support something that sounds nice on the surface, but would have negative consequences for the world?

I think it's natural for people to follow famous names. And this is the reason why it's important to question their opinion as you would question any other statement. Artists are not experts in other fields. In the best cases, they're extremely engaged and interested, but most of them technically shouldn't have the intellectual authority their fans tend to project on them.

Image Making


Even though artists are supposed to be free thinkers, it still feels like there is a very strict ideology artists are expected to support. In my experience, famous artists who don't preach democracy, peace and tolerance get their public image heavily damaged. There's nothing wrong with these ideals, but what if it isn't the artist's honest opinion?

What if, let's say, Why had a horrible mother and all his girlfriends broke up with him? What if Why hates women? What are his statements about the equality of sexes worth if he makes them only for his fangirls to continue paying money for his movies?

While in Ex' scenario the famous artist's opinion was at least sincere, now Why feels forced to lie to his fans and the rest of the world in order to stay popular and keep his job. One can't blame him, since he has reasons to do what he does, but one can't trust him either.

Never Trust a Public Opinion


The problem with any famous person is, I think, that while they're still mortal humans they're not treated as such. Their names are used, they use good causes in return, they may be sincere about it, they may lie, they may be right and they may be wrong, misleading other people unintentionally. We don't know where they're getting their information from, and we never know how they really feel.

We can't trust anyone expressing his or her opinion publicly. And how can we consider someone so untrustworthy an intellectual and moral authority?

When we're young we often dream of becoming a famous artist one day. But after this train of thought I can't get rid of the feeling that being famous is a rather horrible thing. I don't want my audience to mistrust me, I don't want to mislead people and I don't want to lie.

I don't think any artist wants that. Fame is responsibility with the potential to destroy a human from within. Every artist, regardless of famous or not, wants, above all, to create art. And this is why I think that it is, most of all, the famous artists themselves who would benefit if the world saw them more as artists and not authorities on other subjects.

No comments:

Post a Comment