You know Pinterest?
Yeah. Stop pinning and listen to me for a second. Step away from the Pintrest. Awaaaaaaay from the Pintreeeeeest. Addictive little thing, isn't it?
The other day I was on the afore-mentioned addiction-inducing, eyeball-straining, shopping-inspiring site. And I came across an adorable artist's rendering of several Disney princesses as little girls. Each was holding a stuffed animal version of her movie side-kick (except Belle, who didn't really have one in the movie. Instead she held a stuffed Beast.) I thought it was trés cute, and said so in the comments.
Now, I don't usually comment on these things because when you do you get email notifications of ALL the other comments made on that pin. It can get obnoxious. You can get carpal tunnel from hitting the delete button so often. But this time I was feeling, oh I don't know, charmed. Relaxed. Non-neurotic. So I posted.
And HONEY. You canNOT believe the deluge of comments I got via email on this little picture. And they weren't. nice.
None of them was directed at me, thank heavens. They were directed at the artist. Comments like: Where are Snow White and Cinderella? This isn't a collection of Disney Princesses without them! Why is Kuzco in there? HE'S not a Disney Princess! Why is Belle holding Beast? HE'S not her sidekick! He's her boyfriend! Oh, of course it's all the helpless little princesses who had to be rescued by MEN. WHY DIDN'T YOU PUT SNOW WHITE UP HERE?! Nothing but a display of the misogynistic way our society views women! (approximate quotes)
Um. Excuse me?
As far as I am aware the artist of the adorable pictures in question hadn't been commissioned by any of these commenters, and therefore was not obligated to their tastes in any way. In point of fact, the artist had painted a picture she wanted to paint. To express something she wanted to express. As is her right, given that we live in the land of Freedom of Expression.
Now one might say: But the commenters were exercising their right to Freedom of Expression as well. And I would respond: That is correct. They absolutely have every right and ability to express their opinion of the artist's choice of artistic subject matter. But to tear the artist down? To criticize her to the dust because they would have painted something different? Technically those commenters have the right. But do they have the humane right to slam someone else for their opinion, belief, or artistic offering? What reason might someone have to do that?
I don't have the authority to say if anyone actually has the right to slam another person publicly. But I think it's a frightening trend on the internet. I don't consider it safe to browse comment boards anymore–at least not un-moderated boards–because there is often enough venom, criticism, and spite there that it leaves me feeling sick afterward.
I know anonymity makes people feel safe in saying whatever they want on the Internet. But I rather suspect that if the tables were turned and such things were said about them they would feel the cut too. And I hope that if those responsible for such critical comments were able to be in the presence of their target and see the effect their words were having that they'd regret what they'd said. I hope it is just the invisibility cloak of anonymity that prompts their words, and not a lack of human kindness.
Art, in all of its forms, can be ennobling, enlightening, and bring people together through common expression and enjoyment. Those who are brave enough to pull these things from their souls and put them out there for us deserve support. Kindness. Open-mindedness. In short, common respect. We'd want it. We should assume they do too, and give it to them.
So here's my plea: Let's make the world safe for art, music, literature, entertainment, and anything else put out there for our enlightenment and enjoyment. We don't want to lose it. How empty our lives would be without it.