Art isn’t supposed to be good

Art doesn't have to be good to be powerful || Photo by: Taelar Pollmann

 The quality of art is in the feeling it gives you, not in its technical superiority

Star Wars is a somewhat divisive franchise. While undeniably iconic and important, only around four of its eleven canon films (and that isn’t counting the non-canon ones such as the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special) are generally recognized to be good movies. Many Star Wars fans live lives of contradiction, both being able to label themselves as fans of the franchise and recognize that the majority of said franchise’s content is bad. To love Star Wars in spite of Star Wars like this is an act that hints at a more general reality about art. That is, not all art is good, but that doesn’t make it bad art. 

To put the argument into one sentence, some art can be made without technical talent and still have artistic value, while other art can be made with plenty of technical talent and not have artistic value. This artistic value comes from the passion put into the art, which can be taken out of it by those who experience it. To return to Star Wars, the prequels were made poorly by a man with passion for the series, and as a result many look upon the prequels fondly despite knowing that they are not good. Meanwhile, the recent Star Wars sequels were made by a company seeking to make a profit without any real motive to create good art, which has resulted in movies that are clearly made without passion and hold little artistic value as a result. 

The Shaggs, a band with quite an interesting story, produced what was, in a way, music that was good because it was bad. They were a group of sisters raised to be famous musicians by a man who knew nothing about music, and since they themselves knew nothing about music, this sort of separation from the rest of the art form bred a unique sound that was genuinely authentic since the sisters had no tangible way to gauge what the world would think of them. They barely knew how to play their instruments, sang off key, and had poor songwriting abilities,  yet they became famous for their hard work, authenticity, and ability to push boundaries by not understanding where those boundaries were to begin with. What they made was, to most people, bad and painful to listen to. Still, it held artistic value because of the passion and authenticity put into it, which listeners could then get out of it. 

It’s quite difficult to measure art at the end of the day because it is so subjective. One can look at technique and whatnot, but that’s just one measurement. You can make a technically flawless piece of art with no soul in it whatsoever and it isn’t going to be good art because there is no feeling to communicate. Art is about the emotion and care that’s put into it, which allows the audience to receive emotion and care from it. While art criticism is valuable for its own reasons, much of it is unable to accurately judge a work of art since the quality of that art is not always something that can or should be put into words. 

1 thought on “Art isn’t supposed to be good

  1. Art IS supposed to be good.

    I certainly understand and appreciate Diego’s larger point that soul and passion are important in order to move the audience. But it’s wrong to assume that the technical piece is trivial. The technical piece is the foundation upon which good art sits. It’s what allows creativity to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience.

    Revisiting your Star Wars example, the prequels were still a world-class film production. They had world-class set design, costume design, special effects, acting, sound design, and score. Even the writing, poor as it was, was still better than the VAST majority of films that have been made (I can’t believe I said something good about the prequels). 99% of filmmakers have and will never make a movie as technically sound as the Star Wars prequels. However, we consider them technically poor because we are comparing them to the Godfather, Casablanca and other great films, which are in the top .000001% of movies made. Comparing the top 1% to the top .00001%, it can seem like there is a huge variance in technical talent. But we forget to account for how much better the 1% is to the thousands of movies that are made that we never see or hear about. Why? Because they’re not technically well made.

    Put another way, this is like saying that physical talent isn’t as important as effort in professional sports because a middling major league baseball player can still help his team win with heart, even if he isn’t as talented as Mike Trout. But that player is still technically better than 99.9999% of all people at baseball. His heart doesn’t mean anything if he can’t play well enough to get to the majors.

    And why are the original Star Wars movies still considered timeless classics? Because they combined both world-class technical AND creative achievement. They simply would not have the same artistic merit if the lighting was bad, the actors flubbed their lines, the editing was poor, and the script was badly written. The technical achievement is what allows us to see the artistic value.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *