When I was at Uni, one of my lecturers screened Triumph of the Will, a fantastic, rousing, thrilling nonfiction political film from 1934. It was chockablock with artistic innovations, pioneered the use of long lenses and was, in several respects, a landmark in cinema – let down only by the minor snag that it was a propaganda film for the Nazi party.
Director Leni Riefenstahl puts you in a tricky ethical position as a viewer: on the one hand, you’re looking at some stirring, ambitious, visually delicious images, and on the other hand, NAZI NAZI DEFINITELY UNDENIABLY EVIL NAZI. It is, to quote Moss from The I.T. Crowd, an ethical pickle.
Here’s another pickle: director Roman Polanski, acclaimed as much for cinematic masterpieces like Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby as he is for raping a 13-year-old girl. You’d think that being arrested, charged and convicted for sexual abuse on a minor, not to mention a free admission of guilt from Polanski himself, would be career-ending – but Polanski continues to work to this day, the great and good of Hollywood lining up to work with him, albeit in countries where he can’t get extradited.
Hmmm. So, the message seems to be: abhorrent, immoral criminality is fine, as long as you’re blessed by a higher power with the divine gift of talent. It certainly seemed that way last weekend, when pop nonsense maestro Chris Brown performed at the Grammys almost two years to the day after he gave then-girlfriend Rihanna a fairly senseless beating; a couple of years on, everyone seems fine with this now, and Brown merrily walked home with two Grammys.
Should we ostracise people like this from society? Or should we exercise a bit of grace and forgiveness? I can’t claim to know the answer to this. But seeing Mr Brown enjoying such a speedy return to the welcoming bosom of his industry does come across as an implicit tolerance of his crime, rather than forgiveness for it. If nothing else, it’s facilitating idiots like this who take to the internet defending their hero in the most tasteless manner possible. Because morons like his music, they’re happy to tweet stuff like the truly awful example below. A pretty pisspoor state of affairs, frankly, and enough to make you despair for our species.
Happily, unlike Polanski or Riefenstahl, Brown is no genius, so the moral dilemma is simplified. I have no qualms in reporting that the man is diabolically untalented: his wretched brand of trance-pop-bollocks an ugly, facile shell of non-creativity. Shamelessly derivative, he’s everything that’s wrong with contemporary music, and by that token, the world. He is not even guilty of a “cool” crime, like drugs or vandalism! There is nothing good about this person. Even if you think he should exonerated for his transgressions, there can be no argument: the guy’s a douche. Sorry, Team Breezy, but like Gary Glitter’s “Gang” or the Nazi Party of Germany, your loosely-affiliated organisation is doomed to fail.