The Flash vs. Moral Relativism | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

The Flash vs. Moral Relativism

Should we separate art from the artist?

Here's the thing: the older I get, the easier it's becoming for me to separate the art from the artist. But because my brain is an exhausting wasteland of contradictions, overthinking and burrito dreams, I also think a lot of artists are self-destructive, partly broken and mercurial creatures, who act more with their primordial lizard brains than with logic or reason. So, how do we separate a truly horrific human from the piece of art they made...especially if it's something that we already love deeply? I'm getting ahead of myself a little.

click to enlarge The Flash vs. Moral Relativism
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
Michael Keaton: Birdman, Batman, Everyman.

This has been all over the media for over a year ad nauseam, so I'm not going to get into it too much, but actor Ezra Miller (whom is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns) spent a huge chunk of time from mid-2020 to mid-2022 doing lots of horrific things publicly. They choked a woman in Iceland, got arrested in Hawaii for throwing a chair at another woman, got harassment charges in Massachusetts and were also charged with burglary in Vermont.

They have also been accused of grooming a young Native girl, who Miller met when they were 23 and the girl was 12. Miller apparently believes the girl is an "apocalyptic Native American spider goddess" and that they are the "Messiah to Native Americans." Oh, and they have a farm in Vermont that, like most disturbing cults, has plenty of guns and babies.

Miller has since apologized for everything and is seeking treatment for "complex mental health issues." Apologies don't do much for the people they've harmed, but based on the list of horrific shit Miller is accused of, it does sound like they've gone through some sort of psychotic break. Hollywood folk do plenty of bizarre and awful things, but Miller's issues sound like a very specific breed of broken.

Miller is also the star of the new film "The Flash," which has been delayed for myriad rea-sons since 2018. With a budget of over $200 million, DC and Warner Bros. needed to release "The Flash," no matter how rocky things got with Miller, because the studios have too much time and money sunk into the project (as well as it being the 14th entry in the billion-dollar DCEU franchise, stretching back to 2013's "Man of Steel").

I found myself in a weird position recently when thinking about seeing the movie. On the one hand, I don't want to support Ezra Miller financially. But, on the other, my nerdy soul has been excited for a year because "The Flash" was (Bat)signaling the return of Michael Keaton as Batman, and I really wanted to support that.

Here's the thing: I think I have to accept my own hypocrisy in dealing with the moral relativism of separating the art from the artist. I think Roman Polanski is hideous for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old in the 1970s, so what do we do about his masterworks "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby?"

I can't wait for Harvey Weinstein to die in prison, but if we canceled every movie he ever produced, then we would lose "Paris is Burning," "Pulp Fiction," "Chunking Express" and hundreds more works of immortal art. In a heartbreaking bit of irony, Bob Kane, the man credited for many years as the sole creator of "Batman," stole most of the credit from writer Bill Finger (it took until 2015 for Finger to get posthumous recognition). People suck.

So many pieces of music, so many masterful works of art and so many cinematic classics were created by monsters, but I think we rationalize problematic creators if they do something we care about. Tom Cruise's religion has actively harmed people all over the world, but basically everyone went to see "Top Gun: Maverick." Most of us have at least one Led Zeppelin song we know the lyrics to, yet Jimmy Page dated a 14-year-old. John Lennon, Isaac Newton, Chuck Berry, Picasso, Caravaggio, Gauguin, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Sinatra, Steven Tyler... not very great people. Even Aristotle was apparently a dick. The list goes on.

Everyone is going to have a different hard line on who they won't support. I won't ever look at Bill Cosby again, I avoid movies with Jon Voight, music by Ted Nugent (and now Kanye!) and work by artists that are violent, racist, sexist or homophobic.

I think I'm finding it easier to separate the artist and their art because of a delightful creeping sense of mortality breathing down my neck. I am realizing that once we create something and give it to the world, it belongs to the people who connect with it, not the person who made it. Human life is transient and ephemeral. The moment Weinstein dies, his victims will breathe a sigh of relief, the media will report on it for a week and then he will be blessedly forgotten. But the movies that he produced will last as long as we do.

So, should you go to "The Flash?" I don't know. I did. My rationalization was that a movie isn't just one person, and "The Flash" certainly isn't just Ezra Miller. The film is fun, charming, way too long and, as my friend said, is a lot like mashing all your different action figures together when you were eight. It was lovely seeing Michael Keaton as Batman again, and Ezra Miller is genuinely great. Their work in this, "We Need To Talk About Kevin," and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" show that they are an idiosyncratic and interesting artist with a (diminishingly) bright future. I hope they get the help they need, and I hope those they hurt do as well.

The Flash
Dir. Andy Muschietti
Grade: B-
Now playing at Regal Old Mill, Sisters Movie House, Odem Theater Pub

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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