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*xenu saves*

Have any of you read the New Yorker piece about Paul Haggis and his dropping out of Scientology after 30+years?

It's very interesting reading and I was constantly struck by how bizarre it was to me that people could get into this and not find it strange at all.

Then, I started thinking about their cultivation (or, should I say- cult-ivation? HAR) of celebrity members, letting them act as the frontmen, while there are other layers to the pyramid doing grunt work to keep the whole shiny volcano alien operation going, year after year. It's a brilliant strategy- putting forth this wall of success and fame, using that to sell the whole operation.

But- it seems that, every time I find out someone is in Scientology, I feel disappointed. But why? Any other religion or belief- it seems as though it wouldn't matter quite as much. The end work is what matters- film, music, writing, whatever. That COS label, though, for me, casts this odd retroactive pall over their whole body of work. I guess a prime example for me is Beck. Used to enjoy the heck out of his stuff, but once he went back in there, I just have no interest. Does that make me some sort of bigot, in an odd way? I don't know the guy, I'll never meet him- I'm just a consumer of the work he produces.

Is it the work? Is there something about film and music- creative products- because they elicit such an emotional response, we feel more of a personal bond than should realistically be there? Then, you feel as though some old friend has gone a little nuts and it colors your whole response to everything they do.

What do you guys think? Should the artists' work just speak for itself, with no consideration that they avidly believe the words of a hack pulp sci-fi writer? Or, can it not be separated?


( 11 eggs in the coffee — says you )
Feb. 9th, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
I may make enemies among your friends list, and I do mean all respect, but virgin birth and resurrection are both pretty far-fetched also. And so many favorite books, and a shitload of music that I adore, were made my people who believe in that stuff.

I had allowed myself to get a bit turned off to Prince, in recent years, due to his involvement with the Jehovah's Witnesses (who are frankly WAY wackier than the Scientologists), but upon seeing him in concert a couple of weeks ago was reminded that, when it comes to art, the kookoo beliefs which drive an artist's engine can very frequently be only marginally relevant. He was, as he was when I saw him all those times in the 80s -- before he'd decided to affiliate himself with a crazy church to compound his already existing insanity -- fucking incredible.

Sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn't. What's the work they're putting out there? Is it music, or perhaps painting, where there are so many esoteric factors which leave the experience much more personal for the observer (regardless of the artist's inspiration or intent)? Or is it more philosophical? Are their beliefs harmful to others, or are they just stupid? There are so many factors.

I've adored some musicians who worshiped Mao Zedong, for God's sake. He's WAY worse than L. Ron Hubbard.

Edited at 2011-02-09 05:10 pm (UTC)
Feb. 9th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
The work should always stand alone. You can and should take the person into account, but believing something stupid doesn't preclude someone from creating great art any more than believing something smart protects them from creating bad art. The work is what matters. If you had to vet every great artist based on their belief in ridiculous and/or offensive ideas, there'd be none left.
Feb. 9th, 2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
For some reason, though, the big S is the one where I just feel pity and take a dim view of the practitioner.
Feb. 10th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)
I feel that way about Scientology too, though I know many other beliefs are just as new or take as much money, but there's something about "created by an SF writer", that even though I use a lot of Bablyon5 stuff to explain my beliefs, Scientology feels more "fake". I do see it as casting something over my view of the work itself - like watching an R movie on a Family channel - lots of commercial breaks and dubbed over lines or edited or cut scenes -- maybe the work would be stronger if the artist didn't have to put so much into Scientology. (And my perception of Scientology is that of a religion that takes rather than gives.)

Again, this is all my perception, not any absolute statements. I'm just echoing that I share your feelings, and the curiosity about the feelings too.
Feb. 9th, 2011 05:38 pm (UTC)
A college friend was into Scientology and I tried my best to be supportive when none of our other friends were. They mocked and teased him for being into this nonsense and even though I believed it was pure (but still interesting) science fiction, I was the only one he could talk to intelligently about it. (I was the only one of our group who'd read Dianetics). I didn't like him any less for his strange obsession in Scientology. The sad part was when, two years later, he'd become disillusioned in it and became a slob, stopped working out, stopped showering regularly, started doing badly in classes, and just looked terrible. We used to call him Superman because he was broad-chested, muscly, had black hair and glasses, and was energetic in a child-like "save the world" way. Losing his religion, even a quack one, hit him hard.

Which is all to say, to each his own. We do attach to artists (why we get sad when these perfect strangers die) and I'm disappointed in Beck and Giovanni Ribisi but if that's what they need to hold them up, well...alright, then.
Feb. 9th, 2011 05:39 pm (UTC)
I'm just disappointed in Giovanni Ribisi for being a terrible, terrible actor.
Feb. 9th, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC)
Be fair- there should have been many, many Oscars for the tearful scene with his father in The Boiler Room.
Feb. 9th, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
If you mean old men named Oscar pelting him with shoes from just off camera, then yes.
Feb. 9th, 2011 06:28 pm (UTC)
people love fantasy, and believing in a religion/cult is having a role in your own personal sci-fi movie with plot holes. with actors/entertainers/media whores, it's like they never get to stop acting and/or feeling important. c'mon, it's ALIENS!! that is so neat!
Feb. 9th, 2011 06:56 pm (UTC)
I tell you why it's weird. Most of these cults end up getting busted for all their molesting and creepy stuff, or they self destruct. But this one has gotten really good at keeping stuff under wraps. It's pretty obvious that there like in all cults, these people are engaged in child abuse and other horrible stuff.

The Catholics have had to pay a price for this recently. But in their defense, even though they believe that wine turns into the blood of their savior and then you drink the blood, but if you ask a Catholic about this, they will tell you all about it. You don't have to spend $400,000 to learn about communion.

Honestly, Orthodox Jews are probably even worse than scientologists as far as cults go, and a lot of them are living outside the law too(try parking in one of their neighborhoods in brooklyn). They even have a country (Israel) that uses people's tax dollars to subsidize their lunacy.
Feb. 9th, 2011 09:24 pm (UTC)
Short answer: I think the art should speak for itself.
Less short: You don't want to find yourself getting too wrapped up in the notion that perhaps that facet of the artist you can't get behind was instrumental in the creation of the art you admire. That line of thinking can potentially lead to you missing something truly outstanding because of the stigma you've placed on the producer of that something.
I've kind of wrestled with the same issue- when some celebrity is misbehaving in the news but they have a film or album or whatever coming out soon... do I support their behavior by supplementing their income, or do I take some kind of high road by denying myself a potentially rewarding experience. I'm pretty damn selfish, so I'll reward myself more often than not.
I suppose, like a light bit of ridiculous entertainment you're called upon to suspend your disbelief in order to really enjoy an otherwise silly bit of fluff you might need to suspend you belief that the person (genius?) who came up with this music/picture/film/etc. that you really enjoy can actually believe in something you find ridiculous. Despite (or maybe even because of) their "out-there" beliefs, the art exists...
Done rambling I think.
( 11 eggs in the coffee — says you )