Reclaiming the Arts

My 19-year-old somewhat liberal daughter recently helped her friend complete a term paper in English literature. Her friend attends a liberal East Coast college and the paper was about Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Her friend, having never read the novel (my daughter is constantly reading; her current obsession is czarist Russia) asked my daughter what the content of the novel meant as concerns the oppression of a burgeoning capitalist society. My daughter, well-versed in Bronte, said “Nothing…it is a love story.”

This is what art, entertainment and literature has become. There was once a time when art and culture were not the sole domain of the liberal elites in society. The common people learned an instrument, or read sheet music, or wrote stories not to spew some political belief, but for the sake of it. Today, everything has to have a political message. Even when the “artist” has no message (rare), the critic class assigns a message in a self-propagating cycle of nonsense. The result is that instead of having art for the sake of art, we now have art as some call to arms for the oppressed comrades in the world.

Like the Left’s propensity to hyphenate Americans into groups, so too have they hyphenated art. Today we have art-and-society, art-and-education, art-and politics, etc. It is the Left, by capturing the arts in their grasp, that have squeezed any value from them. In other words, art is of no value in and of itself unless it conveys some political message. It is simply a medium through which some cultural value is expressed. For a medium that is the province of liberals, this tendency is rather illiberal. Perhaps that is why institutions like museums, libraries, publishing houses, and theaters, not to mention film and television, are falling into such ill-repute. For a nation that is center-right, the arts and culture is at odds with that reality.

And it is all too often that this country’s basic values come under attack. To hear some critics describe it, this country’s was founded by a group of racist, land-raping, genocidal maniacs. To them, there is little redeemable in the American past. Liberals have always been the greatest financial patrons of the arts so it would stand to reason that their rewriting of American history would find it’s way into the arts. Unfortunately, their politicization of the arts is eroding it’s imaginative ground.

While researching this article, I came across an article about why liberals are drawn to the arts. The reasons stated indicate their prejudice against conservatives and their contributions to the arts and American culture. For example, creative thinkers (artists) focus less on how things are and more on how things could be. The author of this article is apparently under the impression that a conservative cannot focus on how things could be. Because of this, they continue, it exposes them (artists) to things other than conventional beliefs. I am not quite sure how shoving a crucifix in a jar of urine does that, but if they want to challenge a conventional belief, perhaps an artist’s rendition of Mohammed is in order.

Another article says that liberal types are drawn to the arts given their preferences in certain areas: no censorship, toleration of minorities, a willingness to suffer for one’s passion, and a willingness to forego financial gain. Implicit in this characterization is conservatives are money-grubbing, dispassionate, censoring, intolerant boobs.

Yet who is it censoring anything that is remotely conservative? Toleration is not favoritism, but to the Left it is. As for financial gain, the influence of the non-profit sector on the arts cannot be overstated. Between it, the non-profit production companies and the Academy structures, liberals have a virtual lock on the arts. Because of this free-floating free money, artists are, in fact, immune from any true audience influence.  Instead, they play to their liberal benefactors.

What motivates the Left is their realization that the country is center-right, not liberal. They have no motivation to free the arts of their grip and let the free market decide what is “good” and what is “not so good.” But, with less and less people played to, conservatives have an opportunity. Artistic works that pay for itself and has no influence from non-profits with agendas will likely win out every time in a free market.

I would love to see a Broadway production (or even off-Broadway) of The Penis Monologues. Or perhaps instead of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, how about Crazy Crazy John Brown or Bloody Bloody Nat Turner. Instead of Avenue Q, perhaps Avenue H featuring heterosexual puppets can be produced.

But these conservative production companies must avoid what many companies do today. For example, a consortium of Los Angeles-based theater companies decided to make 51% of their actors and actresses people of color, women, gay and under 35. Instead, putting the best singer/actor in the role of Hamilton, even if he happens to be Puerto Rican instead of because he is Puerto Rican would send a loud and clear message.

Further, conservative theater, music and movies should not deliberately avoid potentially controversial subjects. A conservative artist can criticize while respecting and promoting the basic values of a culture. If Mark Twain could do it, I am sure it can be done today. In effect, we need to celebrate America’s unique contributions to the world without all the obligatory caveats prevalent on the Left about alleged crimes in our past.

What is good about free markets and democracy American-style needs to be stressed.   There are conservative artists, writers and musicians out there with a story to tell and a song to sing or a play to perform. There are way too many artists telling us what is supposedly bad about America and it’s past. Just as there is a voice or canvass for portraying the good, there is likely many ears and eyes yearning for the same.