How much should we let our opinions of something be influenced by the creator? It’s a question that should be discussed more frequently, especially in this age of technology, where it’s possible to become a content creator overnight.
If you’ve read some of my past articles, then you likely know already that I am an English major who spends a large chunk of his time studying literature. I bring this up only because one of the most important aspects of studying literature is learning about the author of a work. Be it an epic poem, a science fiction novel or a young adult romance story, the author is someone who holds a large amount of power as the creator.
Now, take this same concept and apply it to anything you like or dislike that comes from an individual or group of individuals. Think of music artists, actors and actresses in TV shows and movies, YouTubers and Twitch streamers, clothing brands, food chains or any other form of media or product you consume. The person (or people) that makes those things can often have a positive or negative impact on how we interact with their creations.
Oftentimes, this can happen completely independently of a creator’s control. Creators are people, which is something that often can be forgotten, and being people, there are things about them as a person that be liked and disliked by others, be it things they believe in, choices they’ve made, words they’ve spoken. These are all things that are judged on a daily basis, but how much of a role should we allow these things to play in the relationship between us and their creation?
Despite the difficulty of the question, people seem to be able to answer it very easily when they refuse to listen to an artist’s music for personal reasons that are related to the artist and not the music itself. The same can be said for people who very much enjoy listening to an artist’s music more because they like the artist as a person.
There doesn’t seem to be a way to draw a hard line in the sand that distinguishes the creator from the creation. People will always draw that fuzzy line for themselves, but for those of us who are holding the stick and are still uncertain, I think considering the connection between the creator and the creation is paramount.
One thing that I’ve learned during my studies of literature is that a book is always an extension of the writer. It doesn’t matter who the writer is or what the work is about, that connection is always one that exists. However, once the author has written something and put it out into the world for others to consume, enjoy, critique and analyze, the connection that they have to it becomes warped.
Imagine a triangle with the creator at one end, the audience at another and the creation at the last. Each person has to position the that triangle so that one point is at the top or bottom, and that positioning is indicative of the individual significance of the three. For me, the creation is what is most important, with the author and audience being secondary, and that is because the audience and the author are always changing, while the work remains stagnant.
Ideally, a work will always be exactly how it was when it first left the creator’s hands, and as audiences change with time, so will interpretations of the work. Which brings me back to the original point of how much you should let the creator influence your interpretation of their work. I’m not going to tell you that the way you judge something shouldn’t be at all affected by where said thing came from, but I will say that the origin is only one aspect and arguably not the most important one.
If there were a series of a books that you loved to read as a child, but once you became an adult and learned that the author of the books upheld immoral values that directly contradicted your own, what would you then make of those books? Would you never read them again? Would you disregard everything you read in them? Everything you learned from them? For me, the fact that I was able to enjoy the work, even if it were made by someone that I could most likely never be friends with, would make me want to revisit those books even more.
Rather than making an impulsive and potentially ill-advised decision, it’s more beneficial to consider the relationship between you and the author. The same goes for every other kind of creator. Does the revelation of the artist not being a good person in your eyes truly make you love that song any less? Does it change the fact that the song got you through difficult times and filled you with positive emotions and feelings when you couldn’t find any on your own?
Again, it is a difficult question, and I don’t have the answer to it. I am of the opinion that there is something to be gained from a deep dive into the nuances of where you and the creator fit in with the creation. It seems as though it would be a disservice to all three parties involved if we were to simply ignore the complexity that comes with deciding where we drawn our lines in the sand.