The Relationship Between The Artist and Their Art; With Help From Roland Emmerich and Lev Yilmaz

Stating that Roland Emmerich is a bad director is both unfair and entirely inaccurate; it’s impossible to say that his films are boring or uninteresting because that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Quite the contrary, Emmerich’s movies are designed to be mind numbingly entertaining; filled with special effects, cliche’ dialogue, flourishing and often melodramatic music, and “End of the world” themes, Emmerich’s films aren’t designed for major analysis. The director himself has stated repeatedly that his movies aren’t meant to enlighten or educate, so much as entertain; he makes movies “…for the masses,” and this point of view is glaringly evident throughout most of his films.

It’s due to this lack of substance that critics often find themselves at odds with his films; most of his popular films have performed terribly with critics, but fantastically with audiences. It’s impossible to deny that while his movies are obvious and cliche’ (not to mention filled with terrible acting), they are amazingly shot and directed; the special effects are astounding, and the music adds to an overall cinematic experience. That being said, when Emmerich actually does try to make a genuinely thought provoking (and equally entertaining) film, he succeeds; his most recent foray, Anonymous, tackles the question of Shakespeare’s identity by working on the Oxford theory of ownership, suggesting that the real Bard of Avon was actually the Earl of Oxford writing to protect himself during a time of great political difficulty.

The film succeeds in its acting, its plot, its direction and cinematography (obviously, since this is Emmerich), and while there are several anachronisms and factual errors, it has to be said that this so called “Made for the masses” movie has far more intellect than all of Emmerich’s other movies combined. The film quite thoroughly proves that given the right circumstances (and the alignment of some form of universal body) Emmerich is capable of creating something genuinely substantial. Yes, it’s still not a brilliant movie, but compared to his other films, like 2012, it’s certainly fantastic.

Though, my interest lies not in Emmerich and his odd direction, so much as the question at the heart of Anonymous. The Oxford theory is not recent, and while the Bard will be turning 448 this April, the question of his identity has existed for generations. It’s actually due to his identity that I began to ask myself why we, as a cultural, care so much about the artist, instead of their art. In this way, what difference does it make who Shakespeare was, considering that his identity does not change his literature, and his face does not change the effect his work has had on both English, and world literature. Why does it matter so much who Shakespeare was; more importantly, why does it matter who any artist was, so long as their art remains?

Truthfully, I first asked myself this question while reading an article in The Toronto Star about the identity of Shakespeare (“If Shakespeare Didn’t Write His Own Plays, Who Did?”), but it wasn’t until I watched a video by Lev Yilmaz on his YouTube channel (AgentXPQ’s I’m Sick of This) that the concept of celebrities and our interest in them became important to me. Well, as important as Kim Kardashian’s divorce can be to any individual.

I found myself drafting a series of reasons for our interest (and I do use the term “Our” in a very general way); some of us (“Us” also being used generally) are judgemental, and we like judging other people. Some of us are voyeurs and we just enjoy knowing everyone else’s dirty secrets. Some of us are gossips, and we simply like talking behind people’s backs. Some of us are just nosy, and we like poking our noses, and ears no doubt, into situations that neither concern us, nor pose any intrinsic value past merely knowing.

I can understand having the desire to know something that really shouldn’t concern me (and that doesn’t anyway), and I absolutely understand having the urge to know useless and trivial things that will never effect me in any way, shape, or form. That’s why I spend so much time staring at the back of Dasani bottles and trying to figure out why a supposed “Thirst-Quencher” like bottled water has such a high salt content (long story short, it’s so we buy more of their water, and it’s because it helps the nephrons in the kidneys maintain homoeostasis). I understand having the desire to know, in summation.

That being said, I’ve always found it difficult to relate to those who got upset at Kanye West for his outburst regarding Taylor Swift and Beyonce’, and I found it even more difficult to understand why so many people cared about Ricky Martin’s sexuality (or Clay Aiken’s for that matter). That’s why, for a moment, I’d like to bring up the obvious point that not everyone cares about the artist. Some people genuinely only care for the art, and when these people watch a movie, or listen to a song, they don’t ask themselves questions like “Is this person gay?” or, “Is this person married?” or, “Is this person a potential murder and how quickly can I run to the internet to complain about how little I like him for ruining my favourite cartoon franchise by submersing it in liquid filth, and releasing it to a pack of hungry brands to make the most profit from the end result?” Instead, they find themselves saying things like “This is a fantastic movie!” or, “That actor is brilliant!” or even, “I can’t believe this director has ruined my favourite cartoon franchise by submersing it in liquid filth, and releasing it to a pack of hungry brands to make the most profit from the end result!”

At the same time, I’d like to mention that there is a stark difference between fame and infamy, and not everyone that’s famous deserves to be so. The same can be said about celebrities and artists; not all celebrities are artists and, disappointingly, not all artists are celebrities. Some people are famous for reasons no more simple than the fact that they released a sex tape and cashed in on it; I can’t argue that there are some celebrities who have remained famous for far longer than their allotted 15 minutes. That being said, when an artist actually produces art, and when they became popular and recognized for this art, why do we care what kind of a person they are?

In short, I propose we care because we want to better understand their art, and their motivations.

Since Anonymous, I’ve been using rappers and musicians as defence of my point (because through some twist of fate, rappers have managed to reveal their identities through blatant and terrible lies shrouded in nothing but the absolutely truth) when, instead, I should have been using Neil Patrick Harris (whose name will hereby be shortened to NPH).

NPH was famous for playing the child medical prodigy Doogie Howser, and once his time on television ended, and his youth dwindled, very little was heard from him, until he reappeared in two places playing an egomaniacal, womanizing jerk. First, in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (in 2004, playing the egomanical Neil Patrick Harris), and second, on How I met Your Mother (in 2005, playing the egomaniacal, and hilarious Barney Stinson). Before I continue, understand that Neil Patrick Harris is gay, and he is certainly not a womanizer, nor a jerk. Quite the contrary, he is perhaps one of the nicest people I have ever seen though I do digress.

Out of context, the transformation from medical prodigy to blatant disregard for all things human might seem like an incredible range on acting; being able to play good and bad characters (both, incredibly well, I might add) means that an actor is capable of acting. NPH’s sexuality doesn’t matter, but it makes his roles all the more amazing, and far more interesting. It’s due to knowing this one extra detail about the artist Neil Patrick Harris that makes his art so much better. Of course, he’s a fantastic actor on every level, but understanding his sexuality makes the roles seem so much better.

Obviously, understanding the artist to better understand their art also provides a false sense of companionship; just because I watch PATV doesn’t mean that I know Jerry Holkins or Mike Krahulik, but it certainly does provide an extra aspect to their work that merely reading Penny Arcade doesn’t. In this way, I feel that the colloquial desire to know about the artist to better the art is most obvious when regarding painters, designers, and visual artists who aren’t writers, or film makers. Knowing what Frida Kahlo went through so much doesn’t take away from her art, it only adds to the emotion and complexity. Furthermore, knowing about Diego Rivera doesn’t ruin his work, but only provides more detail to it. It’s the fact that we know about the artist that makes their art seem so much more substantial.

Of course, one doesn’t have to accept my opinion on this subject, though I absolutely must mentioned that whenever anyone mentioned Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and Beyonce’, and what happened at the VMA’s they always asked a single question after persecuting West for his action, and defending Beyonce and Swift; they always asked “What was going to happen to their music from now on?” They always wondered what would happen to the music once all the dust settled, and all three went back to recording and creating their art. They always wondered how that single personal moment would effect the artists and, most importantly, the art.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!


  1. I’m not sure where you are getting your info, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for great information I was looking for this information for my mission.

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