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Your genius (sung or otherwise)

September 7th, 2008 3 comments

…does not entitle you to behave like an asshole.

It’s a simple point, but one so many miss. Artists do not get special privileges. They do not get a free pass on behaving badly simply because they have the werewithal to pick up a pen or a keyboard or a paintbrush–or swing around an electric guitar or get before (or behind!) a movie camera (saints preserve us). Nor are they magically exempt from social standards because they are witty, charming, and dashingly attractive (as of course all artists, especially writers, are–the occasional glamorous clubfoot aside).

Nothing you do entitles you to father and abandon illegitimate children, spend other people’s money profligately, drive at great speeds through residential neighborhoods, get drunk and hurl household objects at hotel staff, or make public statements of bigoted stupidity about other people’s race, religion, sex, sexuality, physical abilities, or taste in cocktails.* Nothing.

I don’t care how many club feet you have.**

The converse is true as well, of course. Just because somebody else is an artist, this does not behoove us to act like an asshole to them.

If you would not march up to somebody’s front door and tell them their children are ugly, do reconsider popping by the comments section on any given painter’s Deviant Art page to tell him how much you hate his work. Also, if you spot your favorite actor having dinner with her spouse in a quiet pub, there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to approach her.

I guess what I’m saying is that entitlement, either way you take it, is an ugly thing.

As an artist, if you ever catch yourself about to utter the words, “Do you know who I am?” or find yourself justifying some jaw-droppingly self-centered behavior on the grounds of your art, it might be time to reassess. Likewise, as a fan (and I have yet to meet an artist who is not also a fan–of something!) if you’re about to plunk yourself down in your idol’s mate’s vacated chair to tell them how much their last movie stank, take a moment to reflect. And remember what your grandmother told you about etiquette.

And remember, in both cases, that the universe doth extend beyond thee.

–Elizabeth Bear

*okay, maybe that last.

**although if it’s more than two, that might be a road to fame right there.

Image copyright Sean Dreilinger, used under Creative Commons attribution

Categories: etiquette, Uncategorized, Writers Tags: