Saturday, June 11, 2011

Art, Literature, and Moral Conunundrums

Alyssa Rosenberg is rapidly becoming one of my favorite bloggers.  Writing about whether art should solve moral conundrums, she contends
Is there any question that 24 did artistic work to justify torture? That a casual attitude towards abuse of prisoners in our most popular crime shows is corrosive to justice? That Michael Bay’s movies white-wash the military? But would it be better for us to have a world without those works if it means foregoing the condemnations of torture and meditations on the laws of war of Battlestar Galactica? The critique of traditional police work that is The Wire? The Hurt Locker‘s quiet tragedy? Art takes us to the places we can’t go. Sometimes it lies about what we’d find there, sometimes it misunderstands what it’s trying to see through the wavery glass of prison doors and tank windows. This is why it’s bad to read just one book, to read Gone With the Wind or Atlas Shrugged, or watch Birth of a Nation or Battleship Potemkin and nothing else. But it’s useful to read Gone With the Wind next to Uncle Tom’s Cabin: knowing that Confederate nostalgia is wrong, and racist, doesn’t obliterate the need to understand that people feel it, and are strongly influenced by those feelings. Resolving the moral conundrum is ultimately our work, not any one author of any one work’s, and it doesn’t make sense to fault fiction for that.

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