Archive for the ‘creativity as crime’ Category

Cultural dialog – how to get away with it.

September 27, 2007

There’s a fun page over at The Adventures of Accordion Guy, about scenes from The Simpsons and the movies that they parody. It isn’t complete, and as the titles of the movies aren’t listed yet the source can be a bit obscure. But the visual connection comes across straight away. Down in the comments, someone has noted that Citizen Kane is the movie most often parodied, to the extent that almost the whole thing could be assembled from clips of The Simpsons. I don’t know.

But what I do know is that if I want to include Bart or Lisa, or any Simpson’s character, in an artwork I can’t. I actually do want to use Nelson, saying har-har and pointing, and Mr Burns would come in handy at times.

Jonathan Lethem describes the artist’s predicament well in an interview in Salon

I could write a whole book detailing the plot of a “Simpsons” episode, describing Homer’s yellow skin and protuberant eyes, and no one would ever be able to block my choice as an artist there, or make it too expensive for me to do it. But if a visual artist or a filmmaker or a digital montage maker tried to capture that image, which is just part of a visual language that is floating around, they don’t have my freedom.

How to get away with it: a) work for a Hollywood studio b) format shift in such a way that it is difficult for copyright owners to get you. Adapt a film clip to a cartoon, adapt a cartoon to a novel. But if you want to simply speak the language of the culture around you, even just to provide context and background, the price is beyond reach.

Edit: Dario says this content comes from a Spanish site called and has asked me to give credit to them:

Edit: I so wish I could read Spanish. That site looks so good – apart from the usual copyright takedowns from YouTube. How long will it take for Hollywood to learn that this promotes their stuff?


The terror of censorship

July 24, 2007

I live in Australia, where the Attorney General Philip Ruddock wants to enact a law whereby the Office of Film and Literature Classification must identify in advance the books, films, symphonies, news broadcasts, sitcoms and sermons that “might lead a person (regardless of his or her age or any mental impairment) to engage in a terrorist act”. He bases that on the shooting of Ronald Reagan by a crazy guy who was obsessed with Jodie Foster.

That’s like knowing in advance that J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” would lead to the assassination of John Lennon – which it did, via the delusions of a paranoid schizophrenic reader obsessed with that book and with Lennon. People have raised practical objections, but he says the Board can seek the help of psychiatry professionals if they need to.

The point Ruddock is missing (if he is genuine) is that people with mental health problems such as paranoid schizophrenia will incorporate whatever cultural material is to hand into their complex delusional systems. And, arguably, the Bible is the one that is most frequently encountered there. So that should be the first to go, in his great book-burning spree.