On television there's a political talk show—let's call it "The McDorklin Group"—that usually features something like one conservative, four Nazis, and one nice, mild-mannered lady from Newsweek. They sit around a table every week shouting at each other all at once and competing to see who can interrupt the token female in the most obnoxious way. The total effect always makes me itch to turn the sound off, until I realize that without the sound there's no point to the show at all.
At the end of every show, McDorklin, the moderator, who has a gruff voice and a speech impediment, invites all of the participants to offer a short summary of their views on a particular topic of his choice offered in the form of a question. After they've all answered, everyone looks at McDorklin, who screams, "WRONG!!!" and proceeds to give the Word from on high.
This autocratic form of anti-debate was lampooned on "Saturday Night Live" once.
I think of this sometimes as I compile this site. Being the moderator, I can in effect "shout down" any opposing views, and it's tempting, sometimes. But seeing as I open the website to many contributors and commenters, I have to respect that they have their own points of view and there's nothing that makes mine any better than theirs. By keeping McDorklin in mind I can resist the temptation to—in effect—bellow "WRONG!!!" and steamroll opposing viewpoints.
In this case, however, I'd like to offer one humble, simple thought about "kinks and fetishes" that Ctein brought up yesterday. And that is, that there's a real difference between our own work any everybody else's work.
Ctein makes this distinction, when he writes about "...the ones who think all of the rest of us should be enamored of their chicken." The problem resides not in having strong views, but in imposing them on everybody else. And if you can't discriminate between the two, you're probably in trouble.
I don't know about you, but I have very strong feelings about what I want my work to look like. Fetishes, kinks—you can also call such things values, if you want to. Or allegiances and guiding principles. You might label it "taste." (I've been calling them prejudices, in a recent series of postings, with a nod to Mencken.) And what good is any artist without strong views and distinctive taste? Not much, it seems to me. Aren't kinks and fetishes what allow artists to work?
(As for Ctein's pink flower, methinks he doth protest too much. "Sue me"? Isn't that a tad defensive? I'm not gonna sue him, but perhaps he realizes deep down that the pink flower takes a shuffling half-step sideways into the cornfield.)
I'm not above imposing my own prejudices on other peoples' random-ass pictures. After all, there's a reason why my values are values to me. But there's another side of this coin, and we need to be very aware of it if we want to get enjoyment from other peoples' work—and that's that you have to be willing to suspend your own prejudices and take other artists at their word, if you think they deserve it. Once I think somebody has their own thing to say, I'll try to push my own fetishes to the side and be open-minded to the work. It's not always easy; I do it...imperfectly. It's always something to work on. But if you don't, how can you like anything but the same kind of thing you do yourself? And that's a pretty limited way to approach a whole medium.