This has been burbling around in my head for a couple of weeks. Any feedback is gratefully appreciated.
How much does the personality of an artist influence your appreciation of his/her art?
I'll start with a specific and then go more generic, but the widespread generic question is the one that's vexing me.
Specific example. Tom Cruise has purchased the right to produce one of Lee Child's "Jack Reacher" books, One Shot. If you haven't read Lee Child's books, first of all why the hell not, and secondly, go get Killing Floor, which is the first in the series, or maybe The Enemy, which is a prequel, but go get them and read them, and then come back here and we'll talk. Seriously. Go do it. This post will be here when you get back.
And there has been outrage, vitriolic deep-seated ear-bleeding outrage about Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher. I get that. The constant refrain of "He's too short!" actually covers a whole multitude of reasons why Tom Cruise is wrong to play Jack Reacher, although Alexandra Sokoloff makes an argument about why it's a good thing, and I understand getting an icon to play an icon, but my objection to Cruise is not so much his height (if Hollywood can make John Rhys Davies into a dwarf, I'm not worried about relative physical size) but that Tom Cruise TOO big, not in a physical sense but in a perception sense.
Let me ask you this: the last time you saw a movie with Tom Cruise in it and you were talking about the plot, did you say "And then *X-character* ran around the building and climbed into his car and then. . ." or did you say, "And then Tom Cruise ran around the building and climbed into his car and then. . ."? Tom Cruise transcends his characters now. He's no longer an actor, he's a celebrity. In my mind, the person playing Jack Reacher needs to BE Jack Reacher, not someone playing Jack Reacher. That should be his life-defining role; from that point on, everyone should associate him with Reacher, not with anything else. As Daniel Radcliffe will always be Harry Potter, so should this actor always be Jack Reacher.
Tom Cruise can't do that. He is and will always be Tom Cruise. Like him or not, he's larger than life now. He would detract from the movie rather than add to it.
But here's the other problem and it leads into my original question. I don't much like what I know of Tom Cruise as a person. People in Hollywood seem to be under his spell, which I don't get, but for those of us in the hinterlands, he's polarizing on a lot of levels. I lost respect for him when he put down Brooke Shields' post-partum depression. And I wonder what he's like at home. Katie Holmes used to have a sparkle, a glow around her. Now her eyes seem kind of flat and dead. So I wonder.
Does an artist's personal life and views and behavior influence your perception of his work? It does with me. I know it shouldn't, but it does.
Another brief specific example and then I'll move on. I tried to watch The Patriot a few months ago. I'd never seen it, and I've heard good things. But it was hard on the heels of Mel Gibson's drunken rant, and I turned off the TV and I haven't gone back. I even have trouble watching older movies that I know I love, and it's because Gibson's become disturbing to me. Not fair to his work, which I'm sure is excellent, but because of who he is and what he's done, I can't bring myself to support it any more.
So then, in the book world, I'm faced with the same dilemma, and here I am deliberately not naming names because this is my livelihood and I don't want my personal squeamishness to affect anybody else's perceptions. I figure Tom and Mel can handle it, but I don't want to take a chance on seriously offending authors.
There are a few authors whose work I have previously really enjoyed. I mean, I snapped up their work as soon as it came out. Okay, with one of them I kind of lost interest in the stories because they were all the same, so when I discovered that the author herself was a jerk, I had no problems leaving her books behind.
But with other authors, it's a bigger problem. There's an author whose work I have enjoyed and, upon meeting her, discovered that we just didn't get along. That's cool, there's no way I can or should like everyone who crosses my path. In her case, I'm perfectly capable of putting aside my antipathy for her and enjoying her books. I wish it could always be like that.
It doesn't work that way, though, does it?
There are authors whose work I have never read and will never read because they as people were so annoying to me. If I've never read their work, however, I figure I'm not losing anything because I'm not invested in them to begin with.
But there are two authors whose work I have truly, deeply admired, and the more I learn about them, the less impressed I am with them as people. They've said and done things publicly that I find disturbing and somewhat offensive. I think the biggest problem with these authors is that I have liked them in the past on a personal level, and now that I'm seeing more who they really are, I don't trust my judgment, not only on them but on many other issues as well (if I can be so mistaken in my impression of them, who else and what else has clouded my judgment?), and now I certainly don't trust them.
It makes it difficult for me to want to read their books, even though I've enjoyed them in the past.
I suspect I'll eventually read their work because that's what caught me at first. But somehow, with this constant Facebook/Twitter/Google+ 24/7 info barrage, I'm learning things that I was happier not knowing. Is too much information a bad thing? I don't know.
I do know that I'm saddened by the attitudes of these two authors, and for now, that's as much as I can focus on.