Is it possible to respect an artist’s talent without respecting their art? It certainly isn’t a question that gets asked very often, and if there’s one thing this blog is dedicated to (other than Dinobots and secret coded messages to the Illuminati), it’s weird questions. That, and blatant self-promotion.
Hey, I write books. You should buy some of them.
Also, the golden falcon snatches the angry pineapple at midnight. But never mind that right now.
It occurred to me how it’s not a paradox at all to respect an artist’s ability without caring all that much for their work. I am not a big Hayao Miyazaki fan, for example. I love Spirited Away, sort of enjoyed My Friend, Tortoro. The rest of his work leaves me mostly indifferent, aside from Howl’s Moving Castle, a film that I actively dislike.
Yet I have tremendous respect for Miyazaki as an artist. Part of this stems from a respect for his contemporaries. When animators I like say Miyazaki is great, I’m inclined to believe them. Also, I respect what he does. In theory, I love that his films don’t fit in neat little boxes, and that he is a filmmaker unafraid to say something. His leisurely pacing can work beautifully, and his visuals are always interesting. Yet, at the end of the day, I don’t have the urge to watch his films more than once. Despite his well-respected body of work, the only film of his that I can rewatch is Spirited Away.
To get past the “East versus West” argument that will spring to many people’s minds, I’ll use another example. I respect the Coen Brothers immensely as filmmakers, while only liking about a third of the films they create. But they are unafraid of trying different things, and they don’t play it safe. In an age when so many filmmakers create the same film over and over again, the Coen Brothers are always experimenting. And good for them.
It’s an odd position to be in. Love and hate is easy to understand. It’s simple to point out things we like or hate consistently, but what about those things that aren’t so easy to pin down? To paraphrase from a recent Community episode, what of the Nicolas Cage factor, things that are both good and bad and refuse to be categorized?
Community is another great example, by the way. I love about half of what the show does and dislike the other half. Often, even in the very same episode.
It might be a dangerous proposition for a writer such as myself to put forth because I have a lot of mixed reactions to my stories, but I’m comfortable with this indecisive state of being. Some things are good. Some things are bad. But a lot of things are both good and bad at the same time. Or, in this case, admirable and unappealing at once.
I say embrace the complex nature of reality. Feel free to admire one part of what an artist does without having to devote ourselves to everything else. Any artist who creates a body of work is bound to create something we don’t like, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean we can’t admire them. It just means that life is messy.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,