11/10/21: Hello World
In the past couple days, I have seen at least three posts questioning the existence of Anthony Burgess' and Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange or questioning the story's status as a classic/well-known novel, which is three more times than I've seen in the prior 17 years, and I've got a major bone to pick with this new form of undercover modern day censorship of art in the pursuit of goodness and fairness.
A Clockwork Orange is a story written by Anthony Burgess about Alex who is by all means evil, and goes around reeking havoc with his buddies until he is caught and brain washed into "goodness" by the state. The main themes of the story involve morality, what constitutes good/bad, and whether man can become good, or if he is born unchangeable SJW types on my Facebook and TikTok have completely missed these themes and decided to question the existence of the entire story because the character is problematic. O kay? Literature and history is spilling over with problematic characters. TS Eliot was a handfull, not to mention his personas who solicited prostitutes, in the Lord of the FLies the children kill eachother, Fight Club is full to the brim of fighting and violence - who'd a thunk it. The artist's purpose when showing violence is not to say "hey look isn't this cool? >:)" the artist uses the violence to communicate a deeper message whether it be critique, philosophical exploration of something bigger, character development, a whole range of things. A display of violence is never "yo this is sick :)" it's typically more along the lines of "yo, this is sick :(". Burgess never implies an endorsement of what his main character Alex is doing. He uses this incredibly fucked up character to more easily communicate ideas of good and bad by creating a huge constrast and having this guy be the epitome of evil. It also adds to the other theme explored; the morality of the state.
When it is revealed that Alex's friends have all become police officers who beat Alex up when he is finished with his punishment/treatment, the audience is forced (if they hadn't already been) to reflect and analyse the supposed good of the state. It pushes the question of how can our state be good and stand for our country when we see Alex's friends who've committed the same atrocities as Alex but simply were not caught are now working for a 'force of good'. This goes further when they beat Alex as if their violent tendencies have remained. SHouldn't they be good now because they're officers of the state? But how can that be when they are doing the same things they were, but all that has changed is the colour of their clothes. These messages and ideas would be lost should the characters' violence be tuned down or entirely removed. Had these characters not been problematic, the entire point of the story would be lost, and a good and fair critique and analysis never shared.
But Ada, the issue is the vivid portrayal of the rape and violence, it can happen off screen, or the reader could just be told it happened. No. That's just bad storytelling. Lesson one of creative writing class is "show, not tell". The gravitas of philosophical exploration and your belief in the story is lost if a character is just said to be a rapist. It's kind of difficult to believe and you're likely to forget about it. You end up reading about some poor guy getting tortured by the government for no reason because apparently he's a bad person. How do I know he's a bad person? Oh? The unreliable narrator said "I'm here because I'm a rapist and a violent man... Oh my bog, this filmdrome is making me bezoomy blub." Yeah that's going to have a lasting effect for sure. The reader has to see to believe, they have to witness the wrong doings to be hooked and understand the plot. In addition to this, the story is being told from Alex's perspective, so his perception of the violence is necessary. If the story was about the people conducting the experimcent on him, the depiction of voilence would be uselss sure. But it's not, and the meaning would be lost if it were. A book/movie never became a classic by saying "yeah look, this guy's mum died, and then he had a falling out with his brother, and then his girlfriend raped him, so now he is here at school getting into a fight, and next we'll be exploring grief". We don't know anything about this guy's experience except "Man that must suck!", we only know how we would react to that, but that's not helpful, because we aren't the main character.
Stories would not be told, ideas not explored, critiques not made if everything with a problematic character should have its existence questioned. All art that is trying to communicate a message or discuss an idea should not have it's mere existence questioned, it's absurd. Even if there is a piece of art I don't exactly agree with I'm not going to say it never should have been made because it communicates a bad message. Not only is that a form of censorship, it also makes people with those opposing views more aggravated and stubborn. The flack A Clockwork Orange has been copping is just on example of a phenomena occurring recently of books/movires being called out for having problematic themes and characters (typically men). This is frustrating, as the movies coming under interrogation are usually "male manipulator" movies like Joker, Taxi Driver, and The Wolf of Wall Street, called ale manipulator movies because they've become synonmous with men who manipulate women who also idolise the main characters. These men get called out for missing the point of the movie by idolising them (which they are, don't get me wrong, they're complete idiots). The men miss the point; the Joker needs help, Taxi Driver needs help, the Wolf is just a terrible human being. In criticising male manipulators for missing the point, Clockwork Orange haters also miss the point. All they see is an evil man who rapes, or shoots gun after shaving his head into a mohawk. There is a lesson to be learnt from stories like A Clockwork Orange and Taxi Driver when you look past the surface "he's not very nice is he?". People believe that if a main character exists, they are a role model and they have to be liked and looked up to. No. They don't, and that's good storytelling.
I'll be quick; I'm all for questioning the existence of "art" when it's been made by a soulless company (Disney) for some money (Disney) and lacks any creativity and is just a re-hash of an old, succcessful story but with better tech or something (we are talking about Disney). I am all for remakes and retellings of stories, because often times, a director or writer will have an interesting take on it and put their own spin on, or implement their own style into the story to make it their own and something new. It's like how Eliot says you've got'to have an "interesting variation on the old" (he was talking about something else, but the point still applies). Yes I am going to say that the abhorrently shallow Disney remakes shouldn't exist, because it can barely be considered art, and was created on the fundamental basis of making money. How can something be worthy of existence when it's been created out of nothing but money. There is little to no artistic vision in these movies; the probably directors wanted to do something fun with it, but were cockblocked by bigshot Disney producers, or maybe not, and they really do lack the creativity.
Yeah so up yours Disney and shallow remakes of old things.
ALSO, I'm not saying you can't criticise art or hate books and movies because it's glorifying rape or something. Far from it, I love to hate art, but questioning a work of art's existence crosses the line.