Altering Artists-Bringing It Much Closer to Home

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Let's consider a final, very real, very plausible case of what we are talking about.

This time, let's look at the works of Flannery O'Connor--most particularly The Violent Bear It Away. The novel ends when young Tarwater has a rather unsavory, well. . . how shall we put it on a family blog? Let's say Deliverance encounter with a character we can take to be Satan himself. While it is all very veiled and euphemistic, there can be absolutely no doubt about what has transpired and, in fact, in makes much of the point of the book.

However, because our sensibilities are assaulted by this "gratuitous scene," we deem that it might be better to prepare our children with versions of it that excise the "naughty bits" but don't really hamper the end of the novel.

Now, I ask, wouldn't the better practice be to leave the novel intact and allow our children to encounter that novel at an age appropriate to their understanding. But, I'm countered with, no, that would be ghettoizing our children, so we need to alter the work so that in the course of their conversations they will not even realize that they are talking with their peers about the same novel. They're out of the ghetto, but they're fully in the dark.

Once again, because I feel passionately about it, it is always and everywhere inappropriate to make available to the public at large works that have been altered against the will of or without the consent of their authors. It is most especially bad to do this while retaining the author's name and crediting the now antithetical work to the artist.

I really don't understand why this point is so difficult to understand. Public misrepresentation of an artist's work is simply wrong. Changing a work without the artist's consent constitutes a grave misrepresentation of the work.

I even object to doing this in private--but then, it is absolutely none of my business because presumably one has right and proper access to the work for one's own enjoyment, and if one's enjoyment is enhanced by deleting or eliding certain parts, I have no right to say anything about it; however, I'd prefer those who feel the need for this kind of alteration to keep their hands off of any of my "controversial" works. (I've a sum total of exactly 1 bad word in all of my published work; however, there may be a lot of implications people don't particularly care for.) (By the way, I make the final point about privacy not to chastise or berate any one who chooses to make these changes, but to state that my opposition is categorical--if a person, child or adult, is not prepared to consume the work in as unaltered a state as it can be delivered, they would do well not to bother with it at all. If their enjoyment is enhanced by deleting a "gratuitous sex scene," I feel compelled to ask, why would one be watching a movie in which any moment is "gratuitous?" Doesn't that counter the definition of a work of art? And more especially, why would one choose to watch a movie in which the gratuitous is morally objectionable? Doesn't such a moment render the entire work morally objectionable--especially if such a moment is put in only for the thrills and for the higher rating (hence, higher earnings)? )

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Changing a work without the artist's consent constitutes a grave misrepresentation of the work.

Only if it is misrepresented as that artist's work, rather than as derivative from it. If satire is morally licit then "cleaning up" is clearly also morally licit.


I posted a question in Tom's comment boxes that I would be interested in your thoughts.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 18, 2006 8:43 PM.

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