Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, October 14, 2021

I honestly didn’t think “Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography” was going to cause much of a ripple outside of the comics world.

But buzz began with allegations from family members that author David Michaelis skewed his portrayal of Charles M. Schulz too much toward the unflattering. Thus was the story of the creator of Peanuts lent a scandalous air, even if it mostly amounted to a lifelong struggle with melancholy.

Which highlights an interesting dynamic between the public and the artists they adore: The need to believe in a fundamental flaw from which springs talent and inspiration:

Patricia Hampl, a memoirist and poet who grew up in St. Paul and teaches at the University of Minnesota, suggested that our desire to think of good artists as fundamentally troubled stems from a need even now — perhaps particularly now, in the age of entertainment’s dominance — for art to be something separate from our quotidian lives, something almost spiritual.

“People don’t want to believe that someone like them could just sit down at a typewriter or a desk and create something great or timeless,” she said. “It’s got to be the product of a lot of misery and angst.” She compared the impulse to that of conspiracy theorists and their reluctance to believe in the banality of evil: “It’s hard to accept that a guy could just go up into a building and shoot the president.”

Because if it were easy, then everyone should start feeling guilty for not producing out-of-the-ballpark works of art on a regular basis. The impetus for user-generated content on the Web lies behind this, as is criticism that output from the masses shouldn’t be judged by “elitist” standards (even though the judgment ultimately comes from societal measures).

Incidentally, that inability to face up to bland realities syncs with my opinion of conspiracy theories as security blankets:

I’ve pondered the thought process of conspiracy theorists in the past. Without doing any in-depth research on the subject, it seems to me that placing faith in “unseen forces” is actually a comforting thought for many people. In an odd way, it makes more sense that the improbable is behind monumental events, rather than what’s (mostly) apparent. People who subscribe to these points of view can’t accept basic facts, and will take the slightest sliver of doubt to keep crackpot theories alive.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/14/2007 02:44:50 PM
Category: Creative, Publishing
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