[Update: Sorry about posting this article late, there seems to have been a scheduling error of some kind].
Although I often try to avoid writing about politics on here, I had a rather interesting experience shortly before writing this article that made me think about politics and creativity. But, although this will be a rambling article about writing and comics, I’m going to have to start by talking about music for a while. As usual, there’s a good reason for this.
A while ago, I ended up having a random conversation about politics and heavy metal music. This made me think about the politics of my favourite metal band (Iron Maiden) and I quickly realised something very interesting. Although most of their songs are completely apolitical, when they do include political topics in their songs, they are often handled in wonderfully variable ways.
For example, for every cynical song about organised religion, there’s also usually one that uses religious imagery in a reverent/serious/dramatic way. Likewise, although many of their more recent songs about war have a strongly pacifist message, they’ve also made some rousingly epic songs about historical battles earlier in their career (eg: one of their most famous songs is “The Trooper“, which is about the charge of the light brigade during the Crimean War).
Personally, I think that this is one of the many things that makes them such an amazing band. Their songs have a kind of honesty to them, where you get the sense that they’ve thought about both sides of a particular issue. You get the sense that their songs are actual nuanced self-expression, rather than a political lecture of any kind.
This made me think about my own creative works and how many of the political views I’ve expressed in them have gradually changed over time. Most of the time, I try to keep my art, comics etc… fairly apolitical and/or open to different interpretations (eg: one of my favourite things to do is to ridicule both conservatives and liberals at the same time), but politics can seep into them sometimes. When this has happened, I’ve noticed changes over time.
Although my views about a few issues haven’t changed, I’ve noticed that some of my older comics tended to have a somewhat more strongly liberal outlook than many of my modern comics (which can be anything from liberal to conservative, depending on the comic itself and the mood I was in when I made it).
There’s this foolish idea that writers, artists etc… should express consistent political views throughout their entire body of work. Whilst a few creative people hold the same political views throughout their entire lives, this just isn’t the case for many people. I mean, you only have to look at how public opinion about various issues has changed over time to see that many people’s opinions aren’t carved in stone.
I’m only using a sample of one here, but there have been times in my life where I’ve been somewhat conservative, there have been times where I’ve been very liberal and there have been many more times where I’ve been somewhere in between.
It’s always interesting how the people who write fervently about how artists, fiction writers etc… should consistently express a particular political viewpoint in their works are very rarely artists or fiction writers themselves. In fact, they’re usually critics. And you should probably ignore them.
Why? Because the whole point of making art, writing fiction or making comics is to express yourself. It’s to translate the contents of your imagination into something that other people can enjoy. As you change and grow older, your imagination also changes. In a way, everything you make is a reflection of who you were at a particular point in time.
So, if you hold strong political views and have held them for a long time, then by all means include them in the things that you create (but try to do it subtly because no-one likes being lectured at). But if, like most people, you hold a variety of changeable opinions, then don’t feel like you have to express “consistent” views just because a critic tells you that this is what you “should” be doing. Just express your views when you feel it is appropriate to do so.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂