“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” – The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
All around the world, the critics are constantly looking for something to be offended about. People find books, films, songs and television shows that don’t match their personal beliefs, and immediately pull the morality card because these discrepancies upset them.
I don’t like to bring religion and politics to this blog, partially at the risk of alienating readers and partially because both topics can become extremely heated and longwinded, and quite frankly I would rather spend my time going to the park or window-shopping at the bookstore than arguing in areas that are not my specialty. Having said that, it always annoys me when some group comes out to complain about a work of art that is not harming anyone in any way, instead calling into question the morality/immorality of the piece, its creator and its fans.
The Harry Potter books — which promote bravery, friendship and acceptance — were under fire early on because according to critics, the evils of witchcraft were going to have a negative religious influence on our young boys and girls. From a different perspective, however, many events of the series bear striking similarities to the horrific events of our world history and instead show us that mankind and wizardkind aren’t so different after all. The books do not encourage children to practice Wicca or “stray from God’s path,” even if some essayists claim otherwise.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, the only published novel by Oscar Wilde, showed the world the hedonistic side of Victorian England, and yet Wilde was condemned for making homosexual allusions in the book (let alone the fact that he was actually gay!). So many books bring up the world’s controversies — those things we don’t always want to hear about ourselves in spite of their validity — and while some people embrace these, others immediately become threatened and write angry letters about them.
In the past few years, Lady Gaga has very much become a target of this type of criticism. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a huge Gaga fan, I do appreciate the message of equality and love that she preaches in her works and admire her creativity as an artist. Her sound isn’t necessarily the most original but she has, in essence, become her own genre (one that too many other artists seem to be copying). Recently, I heard her song Judas for the first time, and I actually really enjoyed it — much more than a lot of her music. Of course, after watching the music video, ripe with religious imagery and symbolism, I knew that somebody was going to be offended. Not because the video was vulgar and over-sexualized, of course (it really wasn’t), but because somebody is always offended when something pushes the envelope.
In the video, Gaga portrays the Mary Magdalene to Biker Gang Jesus, which results in some interesting visuals and gorgeous cinematography. Do I think Gaga made this video to disrespect all of Christianity and its followers? No. Do I think she did it this way because it was unique and an attention-getter? Absolutely. Groups have protested this video and song, but ultimately people need to recognize it for what it is — an artist’s work, not a declaration that everyone must seek some sort of “unholy” path.
All in all, I believe that the best works of art are the ones that allow us to question ourselves, to see things from a slightly different angle and to choose where our loyalties lie. I also believe that those are the works that receive the most criticism, either from the religious right or elsewhere, and that we should keep our minds open.