Lucky is a cantankerous old man from a 2017 movie of the same name. After hour and a half of snarling, Lucky finally breaks the fourth wall, stares straight at the camera in a closeup and smiles. This is especially meaningful, because Harry Dean Stanton, the actor playing Lucky, died before the movie was even released.
While Stanton wasn’t the author of the movie (although I would assume stars of the movie do have input into their own character at the very least and we know many bigger stars use their star power to push movies into a direction more suitable to the image they wish to cultivate), the fact that I knew he was dead not only made the movie more interesting, but that final scene hit pretty hard in the feels department. Stanton was a weird cult figure, who acted in something 200 movies and TV shows, including several David Lynch projects, as well as cult classics such as Repo Man, and actual classics such as Alien and Cool Hand Luke. He has quite a distinguished resume, even making a small cameo in the first Avengers movie. Not that many of you even needed this explanation.
Still, the point remains that what I know about this specific actor changed my feelings on the movie. The ending would have been fine without Stanton having to die to make it more meaningful, but the fact that he did just made it that much better.
While in this particular case the actor made the movie better with things that happened outside of the movie, it is much easier to destroy movies this way. Take Uwe Boll for example. There was a time I would watch his movies just to see how badly someone can handle them, but after I found out that he wanted to fight critics in the boxing ring, these things weren’t just fun anymore. The author destroyed them by his actions outside of the movie.
Okay, maybe Boll’s movies aren’t the best example here. How about Kanye West? How many great records did he put out? In my mind the seven first ones were all at least good, if not really in the great department. That is a great track record for any artist. However, his antics in the last few years have made listening to his music just really hard for me. I haven’t even listened to his last two. Of course, we have known for ages that he isn’t very stable, but back in the day there was a certain amount of self-consciousness in his work. If you take songs like Runaway, you can see how he understands that his actions are a problem. Where is that side of him now?
We can’t really make a distinction between the art and the artist. This is enhanced now due to the Internet and social media. As people share their lives on Twitter and other platforms, they are bound to share something they shouldn’t have. What often makes it worse is that they will inevitably dig a deeper hole.
And when they do, they will also give new perspectives to their work. While cancelling doesn’t really happen as much as people seem to think it does and boycotts never work, I think we still should take these things into account. We live in a situation where we are inundated with choices. Back in the day our options for entertainment were quite limited. When I was a teenager in the 90s, I had maybe a dozen CDs and radio for music. At some point we did get MTV (and it was actually good for a while). Now I have easy access to millions of songs on several different platforms. Back in the 90s even learning about new music was difficult, as resources were limited (it’s not like we had zines in our little town), so much of the music I was listening to was just pop music from that era (although I was aware of some weird shit like The Residents, because of a C-cassette with random music making rounds in my circle of friends).
How is this important? Well, now I have both the knowledge and the options available to me to make ethical decisions in my consumption of entertainment. Let’s suppose the average grade of the entertainment I do consume is like 8 out of 10. How much worse can it be if I just cut out the ones I don’t feel like I should consume? 7.8? Would the difference be even that with all the options we have available.
Actually, this might even have a positive effect. Cutting out an artist from the music I listen to means that I need to find a new one. That new one is probably going to be something very different, which means that I might find another great artist I otherwise wouldn’t have. By making these choices, I’m going both deeper and wider into these various worlds of entertainment media, and if I’m lucky, I might even be able to raise that 8.0 instead of lowering it.