Although this article will hopefully eventually contain some useful advice about writing and art, I’d like to apologise in advance about writing yet another rambling opinion article rather than a “serious” advice article. If you just want to read the “advice” part of this article, then it’s probably worth skipping to the last few paragraphs.
I don’t know, I’ve been feeling uninspired over the past couple of days and – well, rambling opinion articles where a writer extrapolates universal “truths” from their own subjective thoughts are much easier to write than serious articles when you can’t think of anything constructive to say.
If you don’t believe me, then just look at the opinion pages of any modern… No, I won’t go there. It might offend a wide variety of opinion columnists on both sides of the political spectrum. It could cause a Twitterstorm. Hell, it could even cause a real controversy.
Of course, we have a very strange attitude towards controversy these days. Back when I was a kid in the 1990s and a teenager in the 00s, controversy was a good thing. If something was controversial, then it was usually worth trying to see, listen to or read.
Even if I didn’t really understand why something was controversial, I’d still try my hardest to experience controversial things. When I was a young teenager, I bought a second-hand copy of Peter Wright’s “Spycatcher” because I’d heard that it had been banned by the Government for a while. I never actually really read much of it because I quickly found that it was pretty boring, but just the fact that I owned a previously banned book was kind of a cool thing.
As a slightly older teenager, I videotaped the notorious “blasphemous” opera that was based on “Jerry Springer” when it was on TV and sat through the whole thing, despite the fact that it was basically a boring two-hour opera with a few surreal things and four-letter words in it.
Likewise, when I was a kid, I constantly (and with no success) pestered my parents to let me watch “South Park”, despite the fact that all of the show’s clever social satire would have probably gone completely over my head back then. It was controversial and “offensive”, therefore it deserved to be watched.
Hell, if a CD had one of those silly “explicit lyrics” stickers on it, then it was usually worth buying – even if it was total crap. Likewise, one of the many reasons why I enjoyed reading splatterpunk novels when I was a teenager was because they were the closest thing to the “previously banned” VHS and DVD re-releases of old 1980s “video nasties” that I wanted to buy but, unfortunately, looked too young to convincingly lie about my age to video shop owners.
Back then, controversy was cool. Controversy was rebellious. People had to try really hard to be controversial and, when they succeeded, their work would be well-recognised and get lots of free tabloid publicity.
These days though, standards have slipped somewhat. Not only is it very easy for something or someone to become controversial these days, but controversy is now seen as something that is terrible, rather than rebellious.
Call me naive but, for a brief while in the 1990s and 2000s, it seemed like people were becoming harder to shock. It seemed like, if someone disapproved of something, they’d either just ignore it or possibly say or write a few polite words of criticism, ridicule and/or disapproval.
For a while, it seemed like the world was going to take the same brillantly cynical attitude towards controversy as this hilariously sarcastic punk rock song does.
But, these days, it’s gone in the complete opposite direction. Whether it’s because of a few people on the right or a few people on the left, we’ve ended up in a situation where it’s both easier to rebel than ever before – but also undesirable to rebel.
It was then that I realised that I hardly ever produce anything rebellious these days.
But, of course, were I to “rebel” – my work would probably not be labelled as “rebellious” because we’ve lost the idea of what it is to rebel creatively. Or, rather, not enough of us have tried to find what it is.
You see, rebellion is a very subjective thing. One person’s idea of rebellion is another person’s idea of hyper-conformity. So, in many ways, the only way that you can rebel these days is to work out what you personally consider to be rebellious and then to create works of art and fiction that fit into your idea of rebellion.
For example, my own definition of rebellion is both liberal and conservative. Although I don’t want to go into detail (lest, ironically, I cause a controversy) I find some liberal ideas to be rebellious and I find some conservative ideas to be rebellious. Then, of course, there are ideas like free speech which I find rebellious, but both sides absolutely hate (albeit for different reasons and in different ways).
Your own definition of rebellion will, of course, be totally different. But, you’re never going to produce works of art and fiction that you think are cool until you’ve found it.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂