Skip to the End

Last week I watched a film which I perfectly enjoyed – Ghost in the Shell. I haven’t seen the original, although I was dimly aware of it. My personal preferences for art house cinema tend towards the Icelandic and the French. My love of sci-fi knows no bounds, however, and I was drawn to the pure, blinding bombast of the visuals I saw in the build up to the film’s release. Then I found out that I was not entitled an opinion on the film. How could this come about? Who can police our rights to views?

Skip back. I am not up to date with the current – seventh – series of Game of Thrones. This is, again, another example of opinion policing, but one which takes the opposite viewpoint, I’m afraid. In years gone by I have left the series to play out, largely avoided spoilers, and my partner and I have binged the lot over a long weekend, with the curtains drawn. This year, not so much. This year I have been fine with seeing spoilers: they seem utterly intent on focussing on so much semi-forgotten minutiae.

The thought-police who patrol the mean streets of social media would beat me with a stick for this, but as interested as I am, I am utterly bored of Game of Thrones. I don’t know if I’ll watch series 7.

“So much semi-forgotten minutiae” is how I have only just described the focus being shone on Game of Thrones at the moment, and it really is. All of the spoilers I see on Facebook revolve around the myriad prophesies seemingly made in past series’, the clues hidden in scenes of this series, and the theories – true or otherwise – proffered by legions of fans over the years to date. Very complex.

There are TV shows I want to be immersed in, and there are TV shows I want to just consume. I have never taken Game of Thrones that seriously, so I don’t care much about the dark deep depths of the whole thing. Just give me romping, dragons and cool dialogue. The rest of it is just padding it all out.

But that won’t cut it. Not to the other opinionates out there. I don’t care enough to be allowed. A similar fate befalls me with Ghost in the Shell. I didn’t watch the original Anime, so I am not allowed to watch the new film without being told how far from the source material (3 books, 4 animated films, 3 TV series and 4 computer games) the new, live action film has strayed, dumbed down and, basically, lost. I want to watch it as it stands; if that draws me in to want more, I will seek more out.

Do we separate the art from the artist? I am a big fan of a band called Nachtmystium – I’m listening to them right now. The problem is that their main creative force – Blake Judd – is described by his fans and naysayers alike as a cheating, lying, junkie thief who cannot be trusted as far as an Olympic shot putter can throw him. I may be paraphrasing here. Still, a once vibrant band / brand is no more.

Is this right? Because the man who made the music has been revealed as someone whom none of us should really do business with, I have to stop liking the music he made? Many people would tell me “Yes”, and would have absolutely no compunction about such views. Art, they would tell me, cannot, must not, should not be separated from its artist. Degenerate artists can create only degenerate art.

The ultimate example of this train of thought is Lostprophets, and their paedophile lead singer Ian Watkins. In the wake of his arrest, trial, and imprisonment, many people wrote Lostprophets out of their musical tastes. They were disgusted, horrified and scared. However, the rest of the band are innocent. Do we separate his crimes from their art? Or is that a step too far too far for all of us?

So many things are a matter of personal standpoint, I get that. But the offence experienced by one person cannot be used to police the choices of anyone else. You may find it morally repugnant that the character of the Major on Ghost in the Shell has been ‘whitewashed’, but I am only discovering this world through the live action film, so I do not know any different. Just let me enjoy a silly film.

You might be so deeply immersed in Game of Thrones that you cannot understand it when someone else does not feel the need to dig so deeply in to the lore, the canon, the whole universe which lies beneath, in order to wring the most understanding, enjoyment and gratification from a work: that is absolutely fine; I understand the need too well. However, everyone reaches their limit somewhere.

You might find Blake Judd so morally repugnant in his business activities that you shout abuse at me for wearing a Nachtmystium t-shirt. My wearing of that shirt does nothing to condone his business practices, or the lies he told fans. It simply means that I still derive pleasure from the music he made under that banner. I will, however, only do business with reputable companies in order to hear it.

Perspective is an odd thing. Imagine a shape. From one point of view it is a triangle; from another it is a circle. Two people observing this shape would fight to the death to defend that the view they have is the one true view, and that the other person cannot be right. It’s a cone, a simple cone, and it is really not important. However, convictions never feel as irrelevant or as silly as geometric forms.

I am going through my music collection at the moment, reappraising music I stopped listening to a decade or so ago. I am rediscovering bands I was embarrassed to listen to. Perspectives change, and that is a good thing. Not for Lostprophets, but that is society moving in the right direction, for a change. Ghost in the Shell was a good standalone film, and one day that may be a valid viewpoint.

I have absolutely no right to police what you consume, based on my own personal convictions. In the past I have thought otherwise, letting all and sundry know how awful their music tastes were, how silly their religious beliefs were, how disgusting their food preferences were: I genuinely do not care any more, and I am not afraid to say so. Life is simply too short for baggage like that; just get over it.