Art is a form of communication, perhaps the most lasting form of communication. Stories become myth which become religion, which tell people how to behave and what societal norms expect of them. Stories provide morals and pictures provide appearances. Song shares much with story, and movies combine aspects of both story and picture. We get our notions of beauty from representations in photography, and get our notions of behavior from characters in story, movie, and song. Art creates society almost as much as society creates art.
For many artists, particularly story-tellers, song-writers, and movie-makers, the attempts to influence society are overt. From ‘Give Peace a Chance’ of the 60s to ‘The Angry American’ of 2002, song-writers try to create the theme music for the time. Some books move beyond stories into the area of full on sermons, and are lauded by one side and derided by the another for the blatancy of their missives.
Putting up and pulling down statues and monuments has long been a way of noting major societal changes. This is noted to the point that such actions will be staged for the camera just to give the impression such a major societal change has occurred. Book burnings and censorship are ways of trying to prevent art from influencing society. Whether the influence is positive or negative is mostly a matter of viewpoint, and often what the artist intends and the message taken from the work are two different things.
Last fourth of July, a friend was looking for patriotic and inspiring music and put on Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’. I sat her down and had her actually listen to the lyrics, and she realized that story told by the song and the message she thought a song called ‘Born in the USA’ would convey were two vastly different things.
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