Although for much of my life I could not have put it into so many words, or for that matter could not have understood the rationale behind the feeling, I have always believed that that The Creative Life — whatever that means — comes attached with a kind of moral responsibility. So-called “creators” of irresponsible, vacuous, or degrading “art” have always outraged me all out of proportion to the value (or lack of value) in their work; to the point where I come off looking kind of kooky simply because all I could do was explain why I found a book or a film or a piece of art objectionable — not why I was so outraged by its very existence.
Prime examples would be people George Romero, or Eli Roth, or the people behind the Saw movies. I never wasted even a minute of my life watching their movies, and still I was infuriated by their very existence,
Now I think that I understand. I’m learning, you see, that the world is made of thoughts and emotions, as much as atoms and molecules — maybe more so, because it is thought and emotion that shape the atoms and molecules.
Everything that we bring into the world, no matter how small, has consequences upon the world, and the culture that we live inside. This means nothing less than that, as a creative person, you are responsible for what you bring into the world.
Movies are not just “movies.” Movies are real in the sense that they have an impact on the people who watch them and on the culture as a whole. Like everything else in the world, movies and books and all kinds of art give off vibrations that impact everything around them. Didn’t you feel kind of dirty while you were watching Stardust Memories or Batman Returns? Take that to the next level: a vile, inhuman and outright anti-human movie like Hostel reaches out into our culture whether we want it to or not. By the mere fact of its existence, by the energies that went into its making, it pollutes our culture and the world and turns us all down a darker path whether we are directly impacted by it or not.
This is why I have always said and felt (not always knowing why, though usually being scoffed at by others for believing it) that someone like George Romero has an awful lot to answer for. In his case, it’s not only his own films that he is answerable for (although they are bad enough), but also the scores of imitators more or less consciously ripping him off with their legions of movies about ghouls (and let’s start using the right word for these creatures, please: a zombie is something entirely different. What Romero made movies about, in his own words, are ghouls) splashing the screen not just in blood and gore but with feelings and vibrations of supreme ugliness.
No culture can endure, for long, the ugliness that these kinds of movies bring into the world.
It’s not “just a movie.” When you watch a movie like that, your thoughts and emotions are being directly affected, directly infected. Your entire being is being abused, and altered by that abuse.
I’m not saying that artists should only do “nice” work. But when depicting the dark side of our nature, you need to be responsible about it. In my novel See Them DanceI created a whole host of monstrous creatures and let them, for a couple of chapters, run riot. But I never created a monster without creating a competing force for nobility capable of putting them down.
This is the purpose of Evil in art: to show that we have the capacity to rise above it. The “art” that I’m speaking of creates Evil for it’s own end: as a goal in itself.
What I am learning now is that every thought that we have — Every. Single. Thought. — comes with consequences attached, affects our reality in either beneficial or harmful ways.
People have reacted to me with scorn when I try to point this out. I actually had one person say to me, emphasis his, “It’s only entertainment!” — As if the whole concept of someone finding entertainment or pleasure in images of other people being tortured to death was not appalling all by itself.
Free speech doesn’t allow you to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater, and it doesn’t allow to you to be irresponsible. We accept this as a fact in our physical lives — why can’t we accept it in our emotional lives, in our art? The act of making these movies brings negative power into the world, and the people who watch them as entertainment are allowing themselves to become magnifiers of that power. We are seeing the impact of it in our culture.
You are responsible for what you bring into the world: and for what you consume. Just as poison kills the body, the art of poison will kill the mind and soul.
Maybe this is why The Addams Family have always been my favorite people: they are creepy, they are kooky, they are altogether ooky — but they bring love and family devotion into the world, not hatred and hostility and death. In the words of the transvestite “mother” in the rock musical Hair: “Be whatever you are, do whatever you want to do — just so long as you don’t hurt anybody.”
Depravity hurts, even when it’s “just” in a movie. Depictions of Depravity are the same thing as Depravity itself. It’s not a victimless crime. The whole culture is damaged. And while we can’t license or govern these people out of existence, we can do one positive thing to begin cleansing our culture right now: we can stop giving them our money, our time, our attention, and our bodies as amplifiers of the degeneracy that they are pumping into world.