Earlier this month, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello wrote a scathing op-ed in Rolling Stone in response to reports that Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan is a fan of the band, which has long campaigned for progressive causes.
Morello asserted that Ryan is “clueless” about RATM, while acknowledging that the Wisconsin Congressman “claims that he likes Rage’s sound, but not the lyrics. Well, I don’t care for Paul Ryan’s sound or his lyrics. He can like whatever bands he wants, but his guiding vision of shifting revenue more radically to the one percent is antithetical to the message of Rage.”
Obviously, our blog is primarily (and proudly) about the medium of film, not music, but the Ryan-Morello spat brings up an important question: Can we appreciate art for art, regardless of our ideological leanings? This is a question that cuts both ways, of course. If Alec Baldwin or George Clooney or some other major star makes politically liberal comments, does the conservative moviegoer boycott his films? Or does he put aside his beliefs and just watch the films for their merits?
I, for one, did not agree with everything in the dystopian film V for Vendetta. It wasn’t so much that I opposed its message of fighting against a tyrannical government as much as the fact that the film took such liberties with its source material. The comic book series on which V for Vendetta is based took place in the United Kingdom and was a critique of the policies of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. (It is worth nothing that Thatcher was a conservative and yet was expertly played by the openly liberal Meryl Streep in last year’s The Iron Lady; clearly, she was able to put politics aside for art.)
V for Vendetta the film, however, retooled its target for a modern audience, portraying a psuedo-Christian fascist State that persecutes homosexuals and Muslims. Yet, the film still took place in the UK. I found it rather discordant to have a film take not-so-subtle shots at American policies, whilst being set in Britain. Still, the film is gorgeously shot and well-acted, and although I was frustrated by some aspects of it, I found it compelling.
But enough about me. What do you think, dear readers? Is Tom Morello right to rebut his band’s most high-profile fan, given their wildly divergent views? Or he is misguided and should have simply said something to the effect of, “Paul Ryan and I disagree on just about everything, but it’s nice to have people from all walks of life appreciate our art”? Sound off in the comments below!