The Arts

Dec 7, 2017

Razer: on the ethics and possibility of enjoying good art by bad men

The minute you consider enjoyment unethical, you open the risk of craving it for unsound reasons.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

Franco-US love first bloomed during the American Revolutionary War. Thomas Jefferson was so touched by France’s gifts of guns and money, he publicly described a particular favourite food as “French”. It would be years before ordinary Americans tasted the sophisticated deep-fried potato dish hitherto enjoyed only by slave-owners. When they did, they liked it very much. The Founding Foodie never lived to read the tribute “French fry” written nationwide.

The Franco-American alliance was tested in 2003. When Paris failed to join Washington in its ideological slaughter of Iraqis, Washington withdrew the term “French” from its menus. That showed ‘em. The “right” to order freedom fries -- and freedom toast -- was sought and won by US politicians in their government cafeterias. Then, other patriotic diners fought to have their cardiac arrests ascribed to the USA, and it probably took the murder of a few French cartoonists before an entire nation could be forgiven by another for its failure to murder countless Muslim civilians.

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13 thoughts on “Razer: on the ethics and possibility of enjoying good art by bad men

  1. lykurgus

    On Freedom Toast, we’ll have to give ’em that one… I mean, who the fuck puts sugar on toast? Besides demented twats who make tea in the microwave.

    On a tangentially-related note of works not looking the same anymore, try listening to Northern Kings cover “I Should Be So Lucky” (relax, it’s not as pink and fluffy as the original), and NOT finding the Budgie original creepy, stalkerish or killy (if you don’t feel that way already).

    1. Helen Razer

      The band Laibach ruined The Beatles for me forever.
      They do good work.

  2. AR

    Apart from freedom fries, I thought hilarious the clunky “cheese eating surrender monkeys” from a nation that has spray cheese.

  3. Wallywonga

    Humans are notoriously fickle at bending, flexing their morals when it suits. While the “me too” campaign may eventually have some mass education effect (although unlikely), it is surely fair to conclude that many of those victim stories may have been sprinkled liberally with salt, vinegar, or even angel dust?
    Don’t know many “celebs”, but safe to assume that characteristics of ambition, ego, self adulation, vindictiveness can colour those memories a bit, can’t they?
    So do we totally accept the notoriously fickle moral feed of MM, or accept fact.
    Woody Allen is one of the many current MM “victims” who has actually had his day in court and, while accepting the limitations of the US justice system, was never found guilty. And he has had an ongoing unblemished creative life since.
    At least one creative genius who will remain on my “to watch” list.

    1. Helen Razer

      Actually, the judge decided that it was in the interests of the child not to pursue criminal charges. So the judgement to which you refer was a custody matter.

      1. Wallywonga

        There was a lot more info in the public arena at the time. There was a lengthy investigation by the child protection authority, whose negative findings weren’t to the satisfaction of Farrow. Suspicion of evidence coaching, and one of the other children also disputed the allegations of any improper behaviour.
        A decision to pursue criminal charges also still does not imply guilt, and may have offered him a surer way of defending himself.

        1. Helen Razer

          None of this is the point, really.
          Whatever one’s view of Allen (and let’s agree that there are conflicting accounts and persuasive documents on both “sides”) the question is: should I enjoy art if its creator has a bad reputation?
          The answer is: it’s up to you.
          You can argue all day about who did or didn’t do what or which art we should and should not enjoy. Doesn’t really matter.

          1. Wallywonga

            Thanks, and appreciate I am off point; and I do get the premise of your worthy article.
            Not sure that I am comfortable personally however, about simply developing defensive solutions to what is an epidemic of destructive finger pointing at the moment.

  4. Jack

    I never like art from “bad” men, except Woody Allen

  5. Itsarort

    Was it wrong to have a wry chortle at the skit by The Chaser about the kids in hospital with leukemia? I think not, simply because you’d be missing the big picture of what they were saying. However, I’m sooo in the minority on that one.

    1. Helen Razer

      I don’t think there are “shoulds”.
      Although. The instances of The Chaser being actually funny were rare enough, these *should* be remembered.

  6. campidg

    Well said, Helen. I think Mel Gibson comes across as a fairly reprehensible sort but have always enjoyed him as an actor, even after his bad behaviour became public, and even found some merit in the passion of Christ. But I started the article thinking a boycott of wood Alan would be a good thing and primed to disagree with the piece. The last few sentences brought me around.

  7. campidg

    Nationalism is culture and culture is cuisine. A local example is the trans Tasman stoush over the ownership of laminations and pavlova. More broadly, see also Alsatians and “The Windsors”.

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