Wednesday, August 10, 2011

To Pity a Paedophile...

Last night I finished reading Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. For those who don't know, the novel is a memoir of sorts, of an (incestuous) paedophile. No, not all sunshine and rainbows. However shocking the content might be, the writing is absolutely beautiful, which only increases the effect tenfold. What is interesting is that the story is not some vehicle for lofty metaphor or allegorical significance (though I admit, those kinds of interpretations always interest some), as Nabokov himself points out in the Afterword. It is just a messed up story.

So who would enjoy such filth? Who would enjoy a story about paedophilia and incest, where you do not necessarily feel sorry for the 'victim'? Well of course, this is the question that many asked, and many continue to ask about different forms of art focused on the darker side of humanity. The answer, quite simply, is many people. It holds classic status now, and is loved by many.

Of course there are many people who would be disgusted by such a story, and possibly disgusted with those who enjoy it. This is usually the point where censorship, restrictions, and flat-out bans usually come into effect, though interestingly enough, for literature it rarely happens. If this were a film, video clip, lyrical content on an album, or any other form of art, it would no doubt be subjected to restrictions, censorship, etc. An 8 year old would not be able to purchase the film, yet they can purchase the novel (for less than $10, mind you). Sure, the novel wouldn't be taught in too many schools (Donnie Darko style PTA boards have their ways), but it is accessible. Why?

Censorship and restrictions are ideally in place to protect the simple minds of children, or in some cases, the simple minds of everybody (A Serbian Film, anyone?). In some places around the world, many many things are just blacklisted and not allowed at all; an encroachment on artistic freedom, but that is not the main point here. What I am more concerned with is the attitude towards those who create and enjoy this art, the reasons behind banning such things. Simply put, can art be immoral?

These things are never black and white, though this seems to be a problem in another sense; people struggle to divorce themselves from the imaginary. We encourage escapism in different forms of art, but have the nerve to judge those escapes on subject, rather than artistic merit. Should your morals be questioned for enjoying a novel such as this? What about misogynist hip hop? Extremely violent films? Comedy about race? It is indeed quite possible to distance yourself from the subject matter, to take a step back from the views that may or may not be present, while enjoying it simply as art.

Alas, we live in a world where people experience post-Avatar depression, and where the obsessed find murderous inspiration in The Beatles. Perhaps people are too impressionable, and it is they who are the problem.

Or maybe it really is art that is too effectual.

Maybe art does have morals, or a lack of, which are subliminally fed to us.

Maybe art should be blamed for those dark thoughts procured in young minds.

Maybe art brainwashes us.

Maybe people should go outside.

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