Stephen King is a master storyteller. I have read many of his books. But I can’t read them all.
I started The Stand twice. The second time I was determined to finish it, because a Christian friend told me it was one of the most spiritual books he’d ever read. But halfway through, a particularly violent image sickened me so much I couldn’t go on. I like King, but I worry about someone who can imagine such evil.
We live on earth, and it’s a fact of life that we are surrounded by darkness. If we’re honest, we admit that evil lurks within us as well. But when evil infiltrates art and popular culture, are we infecting our society, inspiring epidemic vice? Sometimes I wonder which art is a response to evil, and which is a cause of it. Are we giving ideas to susceptible minds, turning them into opportunistic perpetrators?
For example, look at the images in 50 Breathtaking Examples Of Surreal And Dark Artworks by An Jay. Many of them move me in a positive way, but a couple make me feel as though I’m looking at the face of evil.
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch
Our lives are filled with horror like never before. We are bombarded with daily news of computer espionage, of massacres of children, of people fleeing from certain death. Art rightly addresses human tragedy; but does it sometimes cross the line into glorifying horror?
I am concerned that when a culture is saturated with violent images, society is desensitized to it and accepts violence and cruelty as normal.
Sometimes my children, knowing my reservations, question my taste in popular culture. I like to watch Bones and NCIS. I read Patricia Cornwell’s series about Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner and forensic investigator who solves serial murders. What I like in these shows and books are the people who devote their lives to apprehending criminals. But I can’t stomach Criminal Minds any more—the crimes and the perpetrators got increasingly more bizarre and horrifying. I watched one season of House of Cards on Netflix, and decided I couldn’t continue–it threatened to take away my faith in the democratic process. I also dropped The Blacklist–nothing in it redeems Red’s character for me.
And I think our world has become more bizarre and horrifying as well, although I concur that evil has been with us as long as there has been a human race.
Detail of The Garden of Earthly Delights
And so, I ask if art can change the world for the better. If we memorialize the beauty of nature, the innocence of children, the courage and kindness and excellence of human beings at their best, can we encourage and promote and increase those qualities in the world?
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things (NIV).
And make art about such things.
What do you think? Do you prefer dark art? Does it have its place? Does it influence people in a negative way? Can art change the world in a positive way? Share your comments below.