Bad art preaches a simple understanding of life, where there are good people and bad people and some people win and other people lose. It leads us to believe that the answers should be easy. That we should be strong, and that being strong will make us better than other people. Strong people aren’t conflicted, they don’t experience dilemmas. Strong people are winners. Simple.
Bad art makes us feel like we are losers. It holds up unfair comparisons between our own lives and the lives of fairytale characters. People who have great sex and feel satisfied by their jobs, who feel confident all the time and sleep easy. We might not have these lives and so feel as though we are the outliers. Everyone is happy except us. We are failing at being alive.
Bad art inspires a guilt complex. It makes us want to be winners. We can only win if others around us lose. It asks us to compare. Leads us to believe that it’s always us against them. We have to find the losers if we are going to be winners. It makes us desperate for superiority. It makes us want to look down on our peers.
Bad art uses pain as a mere symbol. It shows us a tsunami so that we may feel glad that it was not us. Suffering is exploited for voyeurism, grief is merely schadenfreude. That other people experienced great pain, but we did not. Because we won.
Good art does not accept these notions.
Good art denies the simplicity of life. It shirks any idea that people are good or bad or that one can win or lose.
Good art revels in the complexity of the human experience. The nonsensical way of things. Irrational pains. Ethical grey areas. Dilemmas that affect us all.
Good art is propaganda for the reality of life’s darkness. It says that pain is okay, reassures that all people feel distress and suffering. Hurt is not something for losers. It is not something to avoid. The art wants you to know that you are not alone. And that these feelings are okay. It will all be okay.
Good art develops the capacity for empathy. It invites us to consider other perspectives. To stop and wonder about how another human feels. To attempt to look through their eyes, or to want to understand their circumstance.
Good art brings us one step closer to each other. Throws us deeper into the experience of being human. It shows us our similarities and takes the edge off of our differences. Not to compare, but to consider. To shake off our own arrogances and find ourselves in someone else’s story.
Bad art gives birth to extremists, racists, warmongers, the confused and the insecure…
Good art breeds compassion.
Thumbnail from Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman's new film - to be released soon.