Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine fame recently lambasted Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan for admitting Rage is one of the conservative’s favorite bands.
Morello is just one of many artists who have criticized Republicans for daring to admire their art. However, what these artists do not seem to understand is that by doing this, they disqualify their own art as such.
Art is meant to portray truth whether it be a painting, song, film or a novel. An artist’s job is to present something truthful that can capture something inside each and every person who decides to absorb it. Every person will draw their own personal “truth,” and this is what is amazing about art. The spark that inspires one man to create will inspire a different “truth” for each person it feeds.
For example, director Christopher Nolan never said whether his “Dark Knight” trilogy is a right or left wing saga. In fact, despite much speculation on sites like this, Nolan denies any political intention, and that is because there probably is not one. They are stories meant to comment on our social and basic human nature. The politics and very specific meanings to derive from the stories are meant for viewers, not the creator.
And notice the difference between the way someone like Nolan reacts to news of right wingers embracing his films and the way Morello reacts to Ryan’s comments. Nolan simply becomes intrigued about the theories and speculation. Morello, on the other hand, reacts with nothing but anger and questions Ryan’s integrity on everything from women’s rights to immigrant’s rights.
The latter reaction seems to be one reserved for the more liberal artists of today. They refuse to let Republicans use their songs and blast Republicans for even mentioning their names. What’s with the hate? It’s because it is not art. That is not meant as a comment to deride the actual content that bands like Rage Against the Machine put out, but it is meant to deride their artistic intentions.
Someone like Ryan listens to Rage Against the Machine and probably takes his own personal “truth” from the music or lyrics. Perhaps Ryan sees the “Machine” as the growing government that bails out their buddies and overtaxes our overworked population so others can suck from the system from cradle to grave.
A true artist wouldn’t react with anger but would be more intrigued by this theory and take it as a compliment that their music could be meaningful to more than one crowd and convey more than one specific message. They may even try to bring the viewer or listener or reader to their side of the aisle as far as meaning. To simply say they are “wrong” and I am “right” is childish.
One person can watch “Dirty Harry” and come away with the reaction of someone who just saw a Nazi, fascist dream come to life (Roger Ebert), while another can watch it and see a film that stood for individualism and victim’s rights and manhood (me).
Who’s right? Who cares. Isn’t that the beauty of art? We can disagree, debate and ultimately people will decide who is right and who is wrong. The point is artists like Clint Eastwood set out to tell a story that is truthful. A story that shows a man take the law into his own hands and stand for those whose civil rights are being abused.
Do you think Eastwood would question President Obama’s character if Obama stated that “Dirty Harry” was one his favorite films?
As Ernest Hemingway once said, “The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.”
We all know Hemingway wrote a novel portraying machismo and suffering and love, but the specific politics from those who think it is about communism to those who think it is religious is not up to the creator. It is up to the absorbers of art. And he never denied or accepted any of these specific meanings … because he probably didn’t know which one was right. He just knew his story and his characters the the glimpse of their world he put on paper.
Art is meant to convey truth. It is meant to comment on human nature, on life. When an artist puts a piece of art out and claims that it has one specific meaning and that it is only meant to shape people into thinking one way and one way only then it is not art. It is closer to propaganda. And that is exactly what artists should be “raging” against.