Alan Moore is by and large one of the most (some would argue THE most) influential creators in comics. He is certainly one of my favorites.
This quote showed up today:
“It’s not the job of the artist to give the audience what the audience wants. If the audience knew what they needed, then they wouldn’t be the audience. They would be the artists. It is the job of the artists to give the audience what the need.”
– Alan Moore
Naturally it struck a chord with me. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I write, and why I do it. Fortunately, I’m not doing it because I want thousands of followers. I’m not seeking public applause. It’s too much to expect that one could write something to inspire thousands or millions. Not in this world. We’re all driven by our own selfish agenda, whether we admit it or not. I write what I need to write for me, with the vain hope that if it makes an impact on just one other person, I’ll have done something meaningful.
If Moore is correct, and it is the job of the writer to give the audience what it needs, I would posit the writer’s work will only be accepted by a handful. We’re too self-absorbed to take what we need with a smile and gratitude. We don’t want to receive what we need, we want to be distracted. We don’t want to work for our own knowledge, we want it shoveled into our mouths with a dash of sugar.
It is only when the message has been bastardized, twisted, filled with shiny colors and sounds that we swallow the pill we’ve been given. And by that time, the medicine in the pill is diluted, and instead it continues to sicken us. We roll our eyes at politicians attending public events, then shout them down for not being “one of us”. We’re appalled when we learn our leaders are fallible, but nurse our apathy when we’re called to reform. When the truth comes out, when our hero’s stories are retold, we raise our fists in protest.
If the writers of our history were giving their audience what it truly needed, our story would be much different now. Instead we’ve settled for sensationalized rhetoric funded by authors who feed us what they need us to hear. We play into the hands of the game-makers because it’s easier than swimming against the current. It’s easier than facing ourselves, and changing the rules for the better.
The next volume of our history is being written today. Will you listen to what you need to hear, or will you continue to swallow your poison in exchange for apathy? What will happen when Morpheus wakes you from your final dream, and his sister Death walks you to the gates of the Sunless Lands? Will you be able to say that you listened, learned, and left it better than you found it? Or will you have to hang your head, because you took your one chance and squandered it in exchange for false riches?
It’s not the job of the audience to blindly accept what’s being written. It’s the responsibility of the audience to demand the story we want to be told.