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Old 08-01-06, 02:22 PM   #1
LurkerDan
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Artists and social/political commentary

It came up here: http://forum.dvdtalk.com/showthread....21#post7185421

It has always been something of interest to me, and last Sunday, I saw Steve Earle play (who is pretty political). He introduced a song by talking about how some people say he should not be so political and outspoken, and his response was "I thought that was my fucking job".

ANyhow, I have seen it said here and elsewhere, people get upset when artists (be they actors, writers, musicians, etc) speak out about society or politics. They say things like "The Dixie Chicks should shut up and just play music" or "who gives a fuck what George Clooney thinks about the middle east?"

Well, in my view, good art is supposed to be social and political commentary. And it seems pretty weird to say that someone is a good artist, and we'll watch their movie or listen to their song -- even if it says something about society -- but we shouldn't listen to them when they don't put it in "art" form, when they just choose to speak out instead of writing a script or song.

Discuss.
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Old 08-01-06, 02:31 PM   #2
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Old 08-01-06, 02:54 PM   #3
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I don't have a problem with them speaking out.

So long as they don't have a problem with me not opening my pocket book.

I think the difference between say, Bruce Springsteen and the Dixie Chicks is that Springsteen actually made music about social/political things. The Dixie Chicks USED to not (write songs about politics)

Then they say something political, opposite the political beliefs of many of their fans, and want to be "poor babied" for being victims? Puh leaze.

If the Dixie Chicks had made their bank writing songs about their dislike Neo Cons, Republicans, Karl Rove, etc their fans at that concert wouldn't have cared. Key is, they knew they wouldn't likely sell songs to the "redneck" crowd writing songs about that stuff.

It'll be interesting to see if they can come back from the dead now that they're taking the "I'm proud of being liberal" approach within country music. I doubt it.

I guess short form is: start out being that way, you get the fans that agree with you. Make your buck and THEN say something, you risk alienating some of your fans. Just look at the reaction to 50 cent when he said something good about Bush!
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Old 08-01-06, 03:37 PM   #4
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Yep.
As long as you're honest to yourself and your music.
I can disagree with an artist, and sometimes i'll buy their stuff, sometimes I won't. I totally disagree with Jello Biafra's politics, and I think he's sometimes slightly hypocritical, but I own most of the DK's discography and a few spoken word albums.
What I *don't* like is when an artist suddenly starts spouting off politically [on either side], not through their music, and expects his opinion to suddenly weigh more just because he's famous. Obviously if he 'knows' the topic or subject, that's a little different.

Art certainly can be social/political commentary. It seems a little suspicious when someone becomes popular for not having any commentary, then suddenly is very vocal and opinionated. The content of that opinion is important as well--if it's "We think XXX Sucks! He's a right wing/left wing zealot!" that isn't very meaningful.
And sure, sometimes artists do evolve, and start become more political. And sometimes they're jumping on a bandwagon to get attention--all in the eye of the beholder/former music consumer.

But yeah, say what you want. I reserve the right to not buy your stuff, and to turn the radio away from your songs. I even have the right to call the station and say "I don't want you playing that song, if you play it, I won't listen."

I like what Alice Cooper [known Bush-supporter] said about it; loosely paraphrased, "Why are all these artists sharing their political opinions? Why are people listening? We're rock musicians, what the hell do we know about these things?" And of course "rock and rollers shouldn't be in politics, it's treasonous to rock and roll."

This isn't to say there *aren't* educated artists who have every right to be considered knowledgeable on a topic. It's just that there are many more who speak, who aren't.
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Old 08-01-06, 03:54 PM   #5
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Interesting topic. When I was in college, I was quite liberal, and that was reflected in some of the music I listened to---The Clash was my favorite band. Now, some 20 years later, I'm a lot more conservative in my political outlook, but I still love The Clash. And I think that's because Joe STrummer had a very keen political eye, and was more concerned with the IMPACT the political situations had on the individual---he wasn't a hardcore idealogue with a specific political agenda.

I look at it like this---it's great when artists deal with political subjects to get you to THINK about the issues and open your eyes to them, and raise questions. But when they stray off the path and get to the point where they're offerning you specific political SOLUTIONS, they often lose me at that point. And I think one of the reasons is a simple fact in life---your opinion on any suject becomes more credible when you've really put in the effort and work to learn about the subject you're commenting on. When you're a professional musician, then that's what you do with your life, that's what you're learning and that's usually what your expertise is. I have graduate and post-graduate degrees in history---I don't think the Dixie Chicks do, and I wasn't too impressed with the depth of the arguments I heard from them. I think they have a right to say whatever they want, but when you get on a public platform and start yapping about issues that you are objectively not very well versed in, you're just setting yourself up to look like a ridiculous windbag.

I contrast that very much with people like Bono or Bob Gelfoff, who really HAVE put a great deal of effort into learning about the situations they're talking about. And I would suggest that the reason Bono avoids the partisanship and cliched leftist stances on his issues is because he has a real understanding of the complexity of the subjects. And similarly, in the No Direction Home documentary, Dylan talks about how he disappointed so many of the leftists because they wanted him to be their outwardly political spokesman, and Dylan, quite wisely, understood that that wasn't really his role, or what he was good at. Not to sound too cliched, but he was more concerned with the questions than the answers.

I think politics is like any other subject dealt with in art---when the artist has a very shallow, superficial understanding of what he's writing about, then it's probably not going to make very good art.
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Old 08-01-06, 03:57 PM   #6
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I don't really care.

I judge the art on whether or not it's good. Not the politics of the artist.

Can't stand rap music, and whatever Kanye West of 50 Cent say doesn't bother me at all. Ted Nugent's a hack. Alice Cooper has sucked since he fired his band in the 70s. I hate country music and I don't care about the Dixie Chicks. The only Ahnuld movie I ever liked was The Terminator.

The only artist I have qualms about supporting is Roman Polanski. As far as I'm concerned he's a reprehensible human being and I'd rather punch him in the face than shake his hand. But he still makes great movies.
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Old 08-01-06, 03:57 PM   #7
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Art that comments on political or social issues.
Uninformed famous people using their fame to promote lazy opinions unrelated to what made them famous.

A lot of famous people just say stupid shit as shrewd businesspeople trying to gain controversial exposure to their product. I don't want any part of that.

Others are self-involved and out-of-touch and don't really have any idea what they're talking about. That's fine, as most individuals are that way, but I don't want to see it on the news as if it's something I should care about. If some celebrity wants to discuss politics with me over dinner, that's great, but I don't want to turn on the TV or open the paper and see Jane Superstar spouting off senseless rhetoric as if her opinion means more than yours or mine simply because she has good vocal range.

Others are informed, educated and worth listening to. Sadly, they're rarely the ones getting the publicity.

And it's not just artists. It's all famous people. I don't need to hear Donald Trump talking about stem cell research or Alex Rodriguez on Operation: Iraqi Freedom. That doesn't mean that those people shouldn't have those opinions, nor does it mean that they should keep them to themselves if they have strong beliefs. It just means that I don't give a shit.

Context is also important. If some famous person wants to make a political statement on her own dime, that's one thing, but I don't want to see some bubblegum pop princess go off on tort reform when I paid $100 to see her shake her ass and lip-sync to some tunes as advertized.

Artists can use their art to make social change, and that is very powerful and should always be respected. Through art, they can make people think, question the status quo, and inspire individuals to do great things. However, whiny rich famous people yelling at America through the media isn't going to effect positive change. It's just annoying.

As usual, I blame the media and our nation's irrational obsession with celebrity.

With all that said, I think it's silly to stop enjoying the art of someone who starts expressing beliefs with which you may disagree. I may think people like Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, and Susan Sarandon are off their rockers, and I'd rather not hear what any of them has to say publicly about ... well ... anything, but I'm not going to stop appreciating their unique talents because of it.

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Old 08-01-06, 04:00 PM   #8
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I do not object to hearing intelligent people give voice to their opinions, political or otherwise. Many artists are clearly creative and intelligent, and I appreciate what they have to say, even if they're on the opposite side of the political fence.

Mind you, the reverse is true: if some bubbleheaded pop star (a la Britney Spears) starts spouting off her ill-informed opinion, then it makes me want to buy stock in Beat-Em Stick Supplies, Inc.
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Old 08-01-06, 04:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by das Monkey
With all that said, I think it's silly to stop enjoying the art of someone who starts expressing beliefs with which you may disagree. I may think people like Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, and Susan Sarandon are off their rockers, and I'd rather not hear what any of them has to say publicly about ... well ... anything, but I'm not going to stop appreciating their unique talents because of it.
I find it interesting that it's "silly" to stop patronizing the virulently anti-Semitic and homophobic Mel Gibson. I would understand your point better if you had left him out. We're not talking about an actor who holds a vaguely silly opinion.
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Old 08-01-06, 04:19 PM   #10
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I'm with mosquitobite on this. I don't care if they say something stupid or offensive - but I don't want to hear them crying like the Dixie Cups when people don't want to listen to them anymore. If you can dish it out then you'd better be able to take it - or else just enjoy a nice cup of shut the hell up.
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Old 08-01-06, 04:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ky-Fi
Interesting topic. When I was in college, I was quite liberal, and that was reflected in some of the music I listened to---The Clash was my favorite band. Now, some 20 years later, I'm a lot more conservative in my political outlook, but I still love The Clash. And I think that's because Joe STrummer had a very keen political eye, and was more concerned with the IMPACT the political situations had on the individual---he wasn't a hardcore idealogue with a specific political agenda.

I look at it like this---it's great when artists deal with political subjects to get you to THINK about the issues and open your eyes to them, and raise questions. But when they stray off the path and get to the point where they're offerning you specific political SOLUTIONS, they often lose me at that point. And I think one of the reasons is a simple fact in life---your opinion on any suject becomes more credible when you've really put in the effort and work to learn about the subject you're commenting on. When you're a professional musician, then that's what you do with your life, that's what you're learning and that's usually what your expertise is. I have graduate and post-graduate degrees in history---I don't think the Dixie Chicks do, and I wasn't too impressed with the depth of the arguments I heard from them. I think they have a right to say whatever they want, but when you get on a public platform and start yapping about issues that you are objectively not very well versed in, you're just setting yourself up to look like a ridiculous windbag.

I contrast that very much with people like Bono or Bob Gelfoff, who really HAVE put a great deal of effort into learning about the situations they're talking about. And I would suggest that the reason Bono avoids the partisanship and cliched leftist stances on his issues is because he has a real understanding of the complexity of the subjects. And similarly, in the No Direction Home documentary, Dylan talks about how he disappointed so many of the leftists because they wanted him to be their outwardly political spokesman, and Dylan, quite wisely, understood that that wasn't really his role, or what he was good at. Not to sound too cliched, but he was more concerned with the questions than the answers.

I think politics is like any other subject dealt with in art---when the artist has a very shallow, superficial understanding of what he's writing about, then it's probably not going to make very good art.
Now I'm going to have "Rock the Casbah" blaring in my head the rest of the day.
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Old 08-01-06, 04:23 PM   #12
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Tracer Bullet

I find it interesting that it's "silly" to stop patronizing the virulently anti-Semitic and homophobic Mel Gibson. I would understand your point better if you had left him out. We're not talking about an actor who holds a vaguely silly opinion.
I find most of his films entertaining. Enjoying Braveheart is not an endorsement of anti-Semitism or homophobia. I couldn't give two shits what he thinks about ... as I said before ... anything, but he's a pretty good actor, which is what he's supposed to do, and I enjoy much of his work. Now, if/when his art reflects beliefs with which you disagree (an argument for another thread), that's something else entirely, but Lethal Weapon is still a fun movie no matter what the guy says or does. (Oh, and I haven't even looked at that other thread yet -- Mel Gibson was just a random wacko celeb that came to mind when typing that post)

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Old 08-01-06, 04:23 PM   #13
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After having read some of the thread linked to in the OP, I'd have to say there's a difference between someone saying something 'publicly', especially using a non-relevant venue for political speech, and 'privately', especially while intoxicated. [Note: I am not condoning *what* was said, just the idea of 'famous person sharing opinions'.] [and for the record, I think DUI is one of the stupidest things a person can do, and anti-semitism or other race/religion based bigotry is right up there too. However, this isn't Orwell; I'm not too worried about what he *thinks* as long as he doesn't *act* upon it {of course, saying what he did could be interpreted as 'acting' upon it}]]. But as Mel himself said, "I am a public person, and when I say something, either articulated and thought out, or blurted out in a moment of insanity, my words carry weight in the public arena." Whose fault is that? In part, today's celebrity-hungry society, and the media that feeds them and hounds the celebs, and the celebs themselves for trying to get as much publicity, 'on' and 'off' screen as possible. So the difference isn't clear-cut.
Hmm...this is getting deeper the more I type. Okay, how's this: like Josh says, it's about the music/art [although I disagree with him about Alice Cooper, though I think "Trash" was a misstep]; But at some point my perception of the artist could be skewed by his 'private' views, and how/where he expresses them; if my disagreement with the content and distaste of the expression of those views in a non-artistic fashion outweighs my enjoyment of the artist, then I will probably quit listening to that artist.
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Old 08-01-06, 04:31 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by das Monkey
I find most of his films entertaining. Enjoying Braveheart is not an endorsement of anti-Semitism or homophobia.
That's true- I'm talking about seeing stuff like The Passion of the Christ or his new film Apoca-calypso or whatever it's called.

That said, I still contend there's a fundamental difference between someone like Gibson and Britney Spears or the Dixie Chicks. And to shrug your shoulders and say, "well, gee- Mel Gibson may hate the Jews, but he sure can make an awesome Aramaic flick!" seems disingenious to me. I don't know.
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Old 08-01-06, 04:37 PM   #15
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It seems to me that the most common view on this forum seems to be "Celebrities should STFU with their political opinions...unless they agree with me".
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Old 08-01-06, 04:41 PM   #16
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Tracer Bullet

That's true- I'm talking about seeing stuff like The Passion of the Christ or his new film Apoca-calypso or whatever it's called.
That's what I was getting at in my reply. If you disagree with the art itself, that's different from disagreeing with the artist. What I was saying I found silly was allowing the latter to affect enjoyment of unrelated art. If some America-hating asshole artist paints the world's most beautiful bowl of fruit, it's still just a painting of a bowl of fruit.

Quote:
Tracer Bullet

That said, I still contend there's a fundamental difference between someone like Gibson and Britney Spears or the Dixie Chicks. And to shrug your shoulders and say, "well, gee- Mel Gibson may hate the Jews, but he sure can make an awesome Aramaic flick!" seems disingenious to me. I don't know.
I didn't say anything about Aramaic flicks.

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Old 08-01-06, 04:46 PM   #17
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I didn't say anything about Aramaic flicks.
What are you talking about? Your entire post was in Aramaic!
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Old 08-01-06, 04:55 PM   #18
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It seems to me that the most common view on this forum seems to be "Celebrities should STFU with their political opinions...unless they agree with me".
have to agree with that.
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Old 08-01-06, 05:51 PM   #19
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I've tried writing my thoughts on this a number of times and trying to distill it into when it's OK / when it's not OK. The matter of fact is that there are millions of artists in the world and thousands of celebrities and hundreds of A-list celebrities.

That their opinion matters more or less simply because they are celebrities / musicians / painters / etc. doesn't really make sense to me. That's like asking if green-eyed people know more about politics than brown-eyed people and why.
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Old 08-01-06, 06:05 PM   #20
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For me it's a matter of when it's stating your opinion, and when too much is too much.

It's one thing to say you support such and such candidate, or say your working towards/for some cause. It's another to jam it down your fans/viewers/listeners throats and demand they agree with you. Which does happen. There are a few artists I absolutely will not listen to because they're just being preachy. Have an opinion all you want, but I don't really want to hear about it.
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Old 08-01-06, 06:10 PM   #21
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Steve Earl lost my respect when he was going around in concert before the draft saying how "Bush was going to reinstate the draft so you better not vote for him!". Of course Bush had no such intentions.

When called on it a few months after the election, he said "You fell for that?"

If an artist has certain beliefs that he thinks are just and true, he shouldn't have to lie to get other people to follow him.
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Old 08-01-06, 06:34 PM   #22
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Steve Earl lost my respect when he was going around in concert before the draft saying how "Bush was going to reinstate the draft so you better not vote for him!". Of course Bush had no such intentions.

When called on it a few months after the election, he said "You fell for that?"
Do you have a link or source for that?
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Old 08-01-06, 06:54 PM   #23
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I couldn't care less about what an artist or athlete has to say about politics, and I can't fathom why some people get their panties in a bunch about what they have to say. Doing so only serves to give more attention to what should be an irrelavent opinion. It certainly doesn't deter me from enjoying their work as an artist or athlete.
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Old 08-01-06, 08:21 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LurkerDan
It came up here: http://forum.dvdtalk.com/showthread....21#post7185421

It has always been something of interest to me, and last Sunday, I saw Steve Earle play (who is pretty political). He introduced a song by talking about how some people say he should not be so political and outspoken, and his response was "I thought that was my fucking job".

ANyhow, I have seen it said here and elsewhere, people get upset when artists (be they actors, writers, musicians, etc) speak out about society or politics. They say things like "The Dixie Chicks should shut up and just play music" or "who gives a fuck what George Clooney thinks about the middle east?"

Well, in my view, good art is supposed to be social and political commentary. And it seems pretty weird to say that someone is a good artist, and we'll watch their movie or listen to their song -- even if it says something about society -- but we shouldn't listen to them when they don't put it in "art" form, when they just choose to speak out instead of writing a script or song.

Discuss.
BINGO! When it comes through in thier art I have no problem,(my fav album this year is MUSE, which is a non-stop Bush Bash), but when they think that there so special that they can STOP the art and have people just listen to them shoot the shit, its obnoxious.

Otherwise there just dicks with an opinion, and I have to listen to dicks with an opinion all day...now if the people at work could sing thier opinions beautifully...
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Old 08-01-06, 08:29 PM   #25
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I don't mind if artists speak about their political views, just as long as they understand that the public may choose not to listen to them anymore.
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