What’s the difference between a lie and a work of art? The difference is everyone knows that fiction is untrue, whereas a lie is intended to deceive — usually ourselves.
Shit can get really confusing, though, when the lies are fictional, too. In the Buffy universe, sure, the lies in the video below are, in fact, lies and misconceptions, but they’re based upon cliches from other made-up universes. They’re not lies in reality.
Does anyone really believe in “happily ever after” or immortality or that it is “terribly simple” to distinguish what is good for us from what is not? Who is good for us from who is not? Of course, not. We whine about that shit all the time.
Ad nauseum, we say everything is “gray”, not “black” and “white”. But how can you even have “gray” if there is no “black” and “white”? I think we’re missing something.
I don’t think the real lie is that life is simple. I think the lie is that life is complicated.
Moral ambiguity in art has been fucking our heads up for a long time, about a hundred years. The ethically complicated world we see in books and TV shows and movies is not as realistic as we think. The plots and situations are devised to confuse us, to keep us interested, to keep us hanging on until the end.
Almost all of them promote a generic political agenda, too — one that is uncontroversial — and this is especially true of shit that’s made for kids. (Think sharing or family values or animal rights or environmentalism.)
Meanwhile, regarding ethics, almost none of them, however, pronounce any kind of verdict, choosing instead to eschew moral judgment for fear of alienating consumers.
Art used to help us make sense of the world. Fictional characters represented moral archetypes, abstract role models we could emulate or not. Now it’s all marketing and demographics and political correctness.
I’m all for freedom and capitalism, so I see nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does suck for artists with unpopular views of the world, such as myself, and I think it sucks for consumers as well. We’ve never had it better when it comes to options in art, but it’s all the same philosophically. Almost no one is expressing what they really believe anymore.
I’m 44 now, but that’s how I started out in life, as a writer. I thought: “I’m going to write a bestselling novel that changes the world!” It turns out that novels that change the world are rarely bestsellers. The bestsellers are the ones that conform to it and I’m too obstinate for that shit. Money and prestige just can’t compete against the work itself for me. It’s who I am.
I chose the scene below because it’s where Buffy starts “growing up”, starts evolving from the idealistic to the pragmatic, a typical rite of passage that I think is self-defeating.
It’s the end of the episode after she had to slay one of her friends who got himself turned into a vampire because he had a terminal illness. That’s heavy shit for sure, but it’s not really that complicated or hard to understand.
In other words, Giles isn’t lying here, but he also isn’t telling the truth. He’s just wrong — in my view. There’s a huge difference between choosing to do the wrong thing and life just being fucked up sometimes. Some things are not right or wrong, good or bad. They just are. What’s more simple than that?