The Art of Politics/The Politics of Art

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Politics is the name we give to the orchestration of power in any societyRobert McKee—only the Godfather of storytelling.

My original post today was going to be of a movie review. I am hoping to start something I call Movie Monday, where I get to share with you my insights of the best, or most interesting movie I’ve seen all week—yes I do see on average a movie a week. But last night was the Golden Globes (which for a cinephile and story teller such as myself, is the beginning of the most awesome time of the year, awards season) and Meryl Streep was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

There were the usual current events jokes, where the host Jimmy Fallon made one about the popular vote and Hugh Laurie commented that this might be the last Golden Globes since it has everything the Trump Administration hates: Hollywood, Foreign and Press. Meryl Streep however gave a poignant and heartfelt speech that culminated in her saying “when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.” It took about five minutes for the story to hit the internet, and six seconds before people started criticizing Meryl, or any actor for that matter, for being “political.

When I hear people criticizing writers, actors and other artists for being political I have to wonder, what in the hell did they think artists were doing all along? Art IS political. Art is a reaction to a situation and that situation for most of us is the result of politics. If you think of politics as the act of achieving and exercising positions of governance, which can come about in many ways, than ultimately, politics is power and art is more often than not, an examination of that power.

There, there. I know that many of you hate politics because it seems so dirty or full of conflict and conflict can seem dangerous and danger’s bedfellow is fear. But unless all you read are Dick and Jane primers*, (which I doubt, since you’re reading my blog and are under no obligation, unlike my husband or mom) or just like looking at pictures of kittens, you inherently “get” the need for conflict in storytelling. Whether it’s Frodo’s quest to restore goodness in his world, or Meg’s hunt for her father as she searches through wrinkles in time, Banksy’s graffiti in London, or muggles becoming witches, we yearn for stories that help us navigate difficult times and these difficult times are bourn from conflict. So I suggest rather than getting all bent out of shape that an actor or artist has a political point of view, look at the art produced and think about how it was forged. I’m willing to bet that you’ll realize it wasn’t created out of a vacuum and understand—I’m not saying you’ll agree—but understand the politics.

I love the way Streep finished her speech by saying “As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia said to me once, ‘take your broken heart, make it into art.” It’s something I’ve done and will continue to create so long as my heart beats.

*My bad. If you click on the hyperlink, you’ll see even Dick and Jane were political! Actually all of my hyperlinks in that paragraph lead to interesting examinations of that art’s politics.

 

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