On Art and Criminal Behavior

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Jackson Pollock made amazing contributions to the art world. He was also a deeply-disturbed alcoholic who cheated on his wife and killed himself and a young woman in his car while driving drunk (speculation is that the incident was not accidental). Sure, he was a brilliant artist. But he was also a crude jerk with no respect for anyone in his life, and he ended up murdering an innocent person as a result of his dysfunction.

I’m the first to admit that Woody Allen makes me laugh. He’s witty, he’s self-deprecating, he’s existential. I get a kick out of his wry notes on life. But he’s also a dirty, dirty man who took nude photographs of and had an affair with his partner’s young daughter, a minor at the time. “The heart wants what it wants,” he explains. In my opinion, that’s not okay. If she was an adult at the time, it would still be mind-blowingly icky, but it would be LEGAL. That she was a child makes it illegal coercion/rape.

Thirty years ago, Roman Polanski drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl, and when people found out about it, he then fled the country to avoid prosecution. Now Switzerland, a country with the fortitude to actually hold this man accountable for his actions, has arrested him. A petition for his release has been signed by many Hollywood directors and actors (including – of course – Woody Allen), claiming that an international film festival should be safe territory, especially since Polanski was being honored there.

I’m not a famous director. But I am a media professional, and I do have an undergraduate degree in film. And I have to say, I am extremely disappointed in the people who signed this petition. That would be you, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Tilda Swinton, David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, John Landis, Darren Aronofsky, and Wim Wenders. I’m disappointed that such gifted storytellers feel that artists are above not only the law. We’re not talking about a parking ticket here. We’re talking about one of the most heinous crimes ON THE BOOKS. Even Woody Allen himself seems to understand this on some level. He’s the one that once said so eloquently in an interview, “Some artists think that art will save them, that they will be immortalized through their art, they will live on through their art. But the truth of the matter is, art doesn’t save you.”

Pollock’s drip paintings are not such a contribution to the world that it makes his murder acceptable. Allen’s rape of a child he considered his stepdaughter is not made more acceptable because he has a way with words. And Polanski’s arrest for drugging and raping a child is not unjust because he has directed important films. Just because you have something exceptional to contribute to the art world – or any part of the world – doesn’t purify you of the crimes you commit. I’m a Libra – I know how to balance the scales. Placing your art on one side will not magically create an equilibrium with what’s on the other.

Beth sent me this petition today, and I thank her for spreading the word. There’s also several great posts at Shakesville about the Polanski issue. I know this is a ranty, judgmental post. But I’m perfectly willing to turn this standard back on myself and ask where I am justifying actions in my own life and examine what I’m placing on each side of the scale. At the same time, I think we need to stop validating and supporting artists like these men. If someone – a musician, an actor, a writer – acts in an unacceptable way, we as a society need to push back and say firmly that there are some things that are not okay, and that actions come with some ramifications. Chris Brown recently beat, choked, and threatened to kill his girlfriend, Rihanna. He is facing the legal and media backlash from his actions, yes, but he’s still being taken seriously in the music industry. His fans are still supporting him. Studios are still recording his songs. That says to impressionable young boys and teenagers that domestic violence gets you a slap on the wrist, and then more money, fame, and adoration. We already, as a country and a culture, espouse that domestic violence, child pornography, and rape are unacceptable and worthy of legal punishment. Let’s start applying those basic standards to our artists. Maybe then we might start feeling better about paying $10 for a movie ticket!

Garage Sale

It’s been consuming my weekends, this supposed White Family Garage Sale we will eventually have at my parents’ house. We’ve sorted, we’ve trashed, we’ve found all sorts of interesting items, and still, we are not done. My mother has been planning on having a garage sale for the last decade or so. I was in college when she had the last one. I remember that because the job was so large that I had to bring college-friend reinforcements to help get it done.

The biggest component by far was getting the garage in order. I made my mother come out and help me sort. At the end of the day, I declared victory. “Keep” on the left, “sell” on the right.

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I had to take a nap at one point, but I did it. There were no sections for anything except Christmas decorations, so I arranged things into sections to help my parents find things easier and prevent another free-for-all from forming again. My parents are wonderful people, but they have no system whatsoever for their storage areas. There is now a Hobby Wall and a bin just for wicker baskets, as well as a shelving unit devoted entirely to my father’s multiple boxes/bins/files of PAPER. I made him three Baskets of Technology and left him to sorting the cables and computer pieces, but it’s been two weeks, and he has not touched them. My mother says she is worried about me having OCD when I insist that she put something in its section instead of tossing it wherever there is a small opening in the Sea of Crap. Each of them thinks the state of the garage is the other person’s fault, and it’s so amusing to watch them accuse each other of it, when it’s so clearly their shared dysfunction!

Last weekend, once the garage had been tamed, we went after the inside – closets, drawers, stuff from Grandma’s house, etc. I cleaned out the cabinet next to the kitchen phone, and I threw away an entire trash can full of expired medications. Most were from the 90s, but I found a bottle of ipecac that expired in 1981. My mother just laughed at my amazement of the assortment in the trash and said, “Well, you’re alive, aren’t you?” Yes. Yes, I am. I lived to clean out this cabinet for you. I found three glue guns in there she had no idea she owned. I made baskets for each SECTION (Medicine, Batteries, Flashlights, Miscellaneous, etc.), and as I was finishing, my mother came by and stuffed some little things into the Medicine basket. I took them out and yelled “MISCELLANEOUS!” and put them in the right place. You should have seen the look she gave me when I followed up with, “The system is the solution!” So I made labels for each basket since she is clearly not grasping the advantages of the SECTIONS concept. I’m sure it’s all a mess again by now (two days later), but it was nice to see those cabinets clean for the first time in my entire life. My father was in awe. “I’m not sure I like this,” he said warily as he asked for a flashlight, and I neatly reached into the Flashlights basket and handed him one, batting my eyelashes to prove my point.

It’s an uphill battle, but I will win.