Should artists apologize for their work?

imageLet’s talk about artists apologizing for their work.

I posted this up on my personal Facebook page a couple days ago, but wanted to bring it to a wider audience (so, like, the extra two people who read this blog) to hopefully get some discussion running. I’m interested in your opinions.

You may have recently read about the whole controversy concerning that Sia video with Shia LaBeouf and Maddie Ziegler. Now, Maddie shouldn’t be any stranger to controversy and bullshit, seeing as how she’s on that nutty show “Dance Moms” that my wife watches. For that matter, LaBeouf has also had his fair share of controversy lately. All that aside, though, the point of this blog post isn’t them, but the fact that people found the video pornographic, pedophilic, and perverted. Whether it is or not isn’t the point, either, but that she apologized for it at all is the point here.

I want to know why?

To repeat what I said on Facebook:

Art disturbs you. And by disturb, I don’t just mean it pisses you off, but enlightens (geniuses have long been considered “disturbed” as well) you, sets you free, or shackles you. Art should exploit emotion, otherwise what the hell is it good for, and for that reason, I don’t think artists (musicians, writers, filmmakers, painters) should apologize for their work. Just be prepared for whatever comes of it, good or bad.

As a writer, I know exactly what I’m writing and why I’m writing it. I’m aware if it’s likely to offend someone, if it’s going to piss people off, and it’s at that moment during creation that an artist needs to think about offense. If you’re going to worry about how people will react and feel you’re going to want to apologize for it later, don’t write/paint/sing/film it. Otherwise, buttercup, suck it up, put yourself into the universe with your art and be proud of it.

As Uncle Stevie has said in the past, “If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.

You can replace writer there with any artistic endeavor. We’re not members of polite society, but the ones who peel the layers back and expose the bullshit to the world. The world doesn’t like it and they shouldn’t. As one Facebook commenter said, “people see perversion where they want…” (insert Hasbro dick joke here…)

A story of mine, “Cruel and Unusual,” is one of these pieces. It deals with a rich man whose son is raped and killed and the revenge he seeks on the man who did it. It’s brutal, graphic, and I had the hardest time selling it, but I never apologized for the content. When I did finally sell it, I thanked the publisher, because it had been rejected numerous times for content and his response was, “Well, that’s the point, isn’t it?” Yes, sir, it is. You can listen to the story here, read by Nelson W. Pyles on The Wicked Library. Nelson’s received some pretty interesting feedback on the story, too.

Well, Brownies, what do you think about artists apologizing for (potentially/actual/imagined) offensive material? Should we or should we not? I think my position on the matter is clear, but I want to know yours, as both consumers of art and/or artists.

4 responses to “Should artists apologize for their work?

  1. If I didnt wamt to hear what you have to say then I certainly wouldn’t resd your stuff. Dont be sorry for writing what you write. Its what makes you, well, you and if people dont like it, they should read something else.

  2. I can say it took time for me to get to this point, but I no longer worry about what people think. Within reason. Some people are my litmus test for “Do I need to reword that?” My goal is to entertain and not be deliberately nasty to anyone, but I am also not ramming my words, images, or audio into anyone’s head. If they don’t like it, they can chose not to consume it.

    My art is for a handful of people I care about, and has become a bridge for connecting with more like minded people. It’s been incredibly freeing and has allowed me to grow more than I could have ever imagined.

    Of course someone will always want to argue against things they don’t agree with or don’t understand . In politics, religion, and on endeavors to improve the lives the poor, opressed and hungry, I think this is important. But, sometimes art is a part of that process, and somtime is just a bit of fun. Either way, I feel critique should be donw by creating. You don’t like my work? Make something better.

    I once had fucks to spare, but that was before,
    I gave all my fucks away like a godamn dirty whore.

    Now I don’t. I won’t. I can’t. Give fucks anymore.

    • I am my only litmus test anymore, but I’ve long come to terms with my own inherent asshole. There have been times when I’ve written things with the express intent to offend people. Once the anger and fire dies, the discussion starts. The problem, like you said (and Krystle did as well), people can choose not to consume my kind of asshole prose, and me being a small carrot in a big pot of soup, that’s what usually happens.

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