It seems the topic of likeable authors vs. authors people don’t like or don’t agree with or whatever is a perennial favorite in blogland, and the general feeling seems to be, it matters. It matters if a writer acts like a jerk, it matters what they say, it all matters (see this recent example is here on Karen’s blog, with discussions linked at the bottom of the post.)
It’s a topic I think about fairly often–certainly it’s one reason why I don’t blog about politics, for example, or why I keep my mouth shut on certain issues that bother or upset me.
But this morning I read this post on Chez Pazienza’s blog, and it got me thinking. (Fun side trivia note: I’ve met Chez, although I seriously doubt he remembers me. I used to work for his Dad, back in the late 90′s, and he came into the office once or twice. We all thought he was hot. Because he was. Also, judging by the pics now on his blog, he is the spitting image of his Dad, who I adored.)
The post, for those who don’t feel like clicking over, is about an interview Chez produced with M. Night Shyamalan, Paul Giamatti, and Bryce Dallas Howard, and about what a jerk M. Night is. (And btw, I have to mention this because it’s bugged me for years, although I want to make it clear–again, if you haven’t clicked–that Chez does not actually do this: Am I the only person in the world who thinks people who call Shyamalan “Shamalamadingdong” or “Shyamawhatever” or whatever “funny” little joke they can come up with, are in fact being horribly racist and offensive? If his name was M. Night Smythe-Gordon, would you be called him “Smithawhatever” or “Gordolamadingdong”? If his name was M. Night Nobutku, and he was from Nigeria, would it be okay to call him “Nobuttiebuttbutt”? You know, we get it. You are apparently so uneducated and uninterested in the world around you that you can’t take an extra ten seconds to attempt to actually pronounce or spell an adult male’s name, and would in fact rather imply that he’s got some crazy, ridiculous name that deserves to be belittled and made fun of because it’s “ethnic” and not like yours. Ohhkaay.)
Anyway. So Chez hates Night, and the feeling was mutual. And you know, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard that Mr. Shyamalan is in fact kind of a jerk.
But I don’t actually care, because I freaking love his movies. It’s a directorial voice issue; I don’t care what story he tells because I adore the way he tells it. (Which, btw, is something I’ve come recently to believe is the most important thing of all in writing, voice. If they like your voice, they like you, and even a story that isn’t your greatest will be well-received. If they don’t like your voice, they’re not going to like your book no matter how great the story is. Not that characters and story aren’t important, of course they are incredibly important. But voice, to me, is the ultimate. JMO. Anyway.) So, hear the guy’s a jerk, see evidence of him being a jerk, will still see his movies.
Now, there are some actors or film people whose movies I won’t see (Tom Cruise, I’m trying not to look at you, especially given how litigious you are), but that tends to be a combination of my personal distaste for them and the fact that the movies they’re making simply don’t interest me. I dislike Cameron Diaz, for example, and that works well because I also think most of her movies are drivel of the worst sort. On the other hand, I don’t particularly like Alec Baldwin but still tend to quite like him on screen, and I know there’s a good handful of others who for one reason or another I don’t like but whose films I’ll still see if they interest me (speaking of which, Keira Knightley has a movie coming out that looks great, and it’s killing me because my antipathy to her is well-documented here. I’ll see it, though, because it really does look good).
So if that’s the case (and it is)…why are we willing to forgive actors/directors/whomever but not writers? Is the difference in the type of unprofessionalism? Do we see “film people” as being somehow less professional anyway? Do we expect them to be loony or demanding or whatever?
Why? Although the medium may be different, it’s still creativity. But we tend to forgive those in the visual arts more, I think, unless they’re Hemingway. The old literary lions could get away with just about anything, but the actors etc. still do. We still go see their movies, despite their odd rantings or how many assistants they beat in their spare time or whatever. Whereas it seems sometimes writers have to be so careful not to say or do anything that might offend someone, somewhere.
I’m not saying that is the case, just that it sometimes feels that way. Perhaps because more people watch tv or go to movies than buy books, so we have to be more careful?
Or perhaps we connect more intimately with books and authorial voice than we tend to with actors or directors?
What do you think? What behavior turns you off in an actor or director, or in a writer? Do you care or not?
Wow, I’m deep today, huh.