Last week, Rolling Stone magazine printed bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of its latest issue inciting outrage across the country. The cover probably deserved this negative reaction. If it hadn’t, there would be something questionable about the America we live in. Having a mass murderer grace the cover of one of our biggest entertainment magazines without some sort of outcry would perhaps point to a numb and violent world. The fact that we react in horror to horrific deeds shows a thread of morality running through our national conscience.
Here’s the thing. I don’t think Rolling Stone did anything wrong by putting Tsarnaev on the cover. I have not read the article, but from what I have read (mainly the headlines) it is the story of how he became to become a mass murderer. Maybe it is a little soon after the incident, but typically we Americans love the stories of how these things happen. What bothered people so much was the way that he looked on the cover. The way that they printed him fit in well with the other rockers known to front Rolling Stone’s cover. There was no turban and the beard was kept short; he didn’t fit our image of evil.
Rolling Stone pushed the boundary. They did something controversial and by doing so caused some of us to rethink our stereotypes, images, and prejudices. Was this their intent? I don’t know. It could be a way for them to boost sales or to remind people of their existence. Pushing the boundary for its own sake is vain, akin to a child disobeying its parents by touching a hot stove. The limit was pushed and the consequence probably not worth it.
There are times though where the boundary must be pushed.
The system must collapse a little bit in order to sprout up higher than before. For example, Edward Snowden leaking the PRISM program to show us just what the government is up to, which, to most of us, is something we do not want them to be up to. He revealed things to the American public, making people think about their rights and the way the government should interact with us. He holds a line that is somewhere in between revolutionary and traitor and I think this is exactly how he should be viewed. I support the American government in trying to capture him and to punish him for what he has done. He has revealed confidential information that has in a sense betrayed the United States government. At the same time, I kind of hope he doesn’t get caught. I think what he did was somewhat noble, eye opening, and will bring change, probably for the good.
When Exit Through the Gift Shop came out a couple of years ago, street art was thrown into the limelight; Banksy became a household name with his work being renowned worldwide. Typically known for being destructive, Exit and the work of Banksy have broadened this view, showing that graffiti can be beautiful and enlightening. Yet, there is no way that this work can become completely accepted either in public policy or (as the film seems to say) from the artist’s point of view. A city cannot allow for people to defame public buildings, allowing them to do so could incite chaos. On the other side, setting up expositions for street art would disinterest the creators because it takes away the very essence of street art. There is not a real middle ground. They cannot coexist.
The greatest artists are typically those who have pushed the boundaries of their genre or craft. What is “cool” is always shifting. Society and politics seem to be the same. Something happens and rules and leaders are put into place to keep society functioning. These rules slowly become outdated and there is no need for them in their current state. Some rulers get a taste of power and become so hungry for it that all the good and the change they seemed to be bringing also needs to be rebelled against. There is a constant shifting.
So we are stuck in this position where it is good to have a system of rules, but realize the need for rebellion in preventing governments from running rampant or our minds remaining stagnant in biases, bigotry, and prejudice. The establishment may become sick, but it remains in place to keep society functioning (sorry anarchists). Now this certainly does not excuse totalitarian regimes; complete and utter rebellion is necessary in some cases, but in the society we currently live in, positive things deserve negative reactions as we begin to look and move forward. After all, what good is raging when there is no machine to rage against?