February 22nd, 2020

Art should push boundaries

By Letter to the Editor on October 9, 2019.

I have noticed one of the main things we see in response to any new pieces of entertainment in modern mainstream culture is fear of the intent or repercussions that piece of entertainment will have.

In recent weeks this has been in response to the movie “Joker” starring Joaquin Phoenix.

Many fear that the understanding or backstory of a fictional character will make people think they are the same or copy that character’s ideals or motives. But art has always told these kinds of stories that are difficult and even disturbing, because without doing so there are boundaries that kill art, storytelling and even warnings of what is evil or wrong being known.

As an example, in 1892, a story was told through the media of opera. That story, while disturbing, has become one of the most critically acclaimed operas in history and is still performed to this day. That opera is Pagliacci, a tale of a clown performer whose wife is unfaithful to him and ends in him killing his wife and her lover. This is disturbing but has told a story that has happened in reality and many tales told for a long time. It is also a disturbing story about the death of two people over one person’s greed, shame and sorrow … but for 127 years it has been performed to critical acclaim.

If this can be done, why can art not be performed in the modern age to modern acclaim for telling a story that, while disturbing, also sends emotion and wonder to its audience? Art should push boundaries, not be cinched to nothing by them.

Jackson Lewis


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