Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Charlie Kaufman Might Hate You

Charlie Kaufman, to the uninitiated, is the brilliant pen behind a bunch of really weird films about the convoluted mind of Charlie Kaufman. The better known-and-critically-received of these are Being John Malkovitch, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Adaptation.

I have seen and enjoyed these three movies, so last night I followed a link to a talk Kaufman gave at BAFTA, in which he rambled, creatively and sometimes less-than-coherently, to a bunch of screenwriters about all sorts of writing-related things. One that stuck out to me was his mention of the tendency among artists to grow to hate their audience. It sounds awful, I know, but it's something I've long-noticed among artists of all kinds and (confession time) it's actually a temptation towards which I, myself, sometimes feel a bit of a pull.


I can't quite figure it out, but here's the best I've got so far...

Why Artists Hate Their Audience: A Theory

A. Art is often an outgrowth of the self's desire to be loved. An artist's motivation for making things is often, at some primal level, an attempt to say to other people: please, please love me. 
B. If the artist is honest, works hard, and tells the truth, art patrons will often recognize themselves in the art. They'll respond emotionally, and some of the love they feel for the artist's product will inevitably spill over to the artist.
C. This love is, however, conditional. It requires the artist to make new and interesting things, and quickly becomes bored and withdraws love when the artist does not. 
D. The artist feels betrayed by what he or she perceives as mis-directed and conditional love, and begins to resent the audience for not loving unconditionally enough. 
E. Although the artist might even be aware of the irrationality of this resentment, the resentment can nonetheless shrivel into bitterness, which eventually shrivels into hatred. 

That seems as likely an explanation as any for the tripped-out stuff that goes on in my mind.

As creatively helpful as it can be to wallow down in the mire of my wounded psyche, however, at the end of the day I have to remind myself that I do believe in love and grace, and that to make is to have hope - to live. I'm grateful for that, and for the joys of well-made art... no matter what Charlie Kaufman might think of me for it.

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