“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds,” Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said. What he meant was simple: the world is big and there are many experiences in it that can impact the way you see that world; if your mind is big enough it will, over time, be changed.
We live in a time when changing your mind is seen as the worst weakness of all. John Kerry was attacked by George Bush during the 2004 campaign as being a flip-flopper for changing his stances on issues over the years (this should be contrasted with Mitt Romney’s inability to find a stance, ever. There’s a big difference in changing your mind and never committing in the first place). Sometimes when I get into debates online my opponents will dig up something I wrote six or seven years ago, as if my opinion in 2007 is a millstone around my neck with which I must forever live. As if, over the intervening years, I haven’t considered my position and eventually changed it. As if that would be a bad thing for me to do.
The latest person coming under attack for changing his mind is Jim Carrey who, in a series of tweets, said he couldn’t support his new movie, Kick-Ass 2, in light of the Sandy Hook massacre. Carrey was deeply impacted by that event - he made a web video attacking gun owners that really raised hackles - and as a result he now finds the level of violence in the movie unpalatable.
To me that’s admirable. It’s possible that the extreme violence on set during the Kick-Ass 2 shoot contrasted with the real life violence of Sandy Hook weeks later is what caused something to switch over in Carrey’s thinking. That’s indicative of someone who is allowing experience in, who is examining his beliefs all the time, someone who isn’t didactic or chained to one belief system in the face of all reason. Yet to many others this is weakness, and an occasion to belittle and attack the guy. He’s bitching, they say. Didn’t he read the script?, they ask. He’s happy to cash the paychecks, they mock.
They, frankly, are the small minds.
I don’t think Carrey is saying media violence causes real world violence. That’s pretty clear from his statement. What he’s saying is that after witnessing the violence in the real world he is approaching the fictional violence differently. It impacts him differently. Where’s the shame in that? What seemed like good fun before Sandy Hook now tastes to him like ashes.
But there were other massacres!, the assholes cry. Why didn’t those killings impact him? I don’t know, but everyone reacts differently to different things. There are many people who become vegetarians after seeing the slaughter process, even though they already knew - intellectually - what was happening to the animals. We process our world both intellectually and emotionally, and sometimes an event can hit you emotionally in such a way as to forever change the way you intellectualize it.
That’s called growth.
I have in the past written jokes in articles that I now find distasteful. I have pilloried people who I now find admirable. I have savaged movies that I now love, and I have defended movies I now despise. I’ve taken up political causes that I now view skeptically, and I have argued against social positions with which I now agree. I’m 39 years old and I’m not the same person I was when I was 19 or 29... or even 35.
The only people who shouldn’t change their minds are the dead. The rest of us - the ostensibly living - must approach the world with engagement, must take in new facts and experiences openly and must allow those things to impact us however they will. If you refuse to change you’re not lying to others about your beliefs, you’re just lying to yourself.
As a side note, I see many people going after Carrey for ‘breaking his contract’ or the like, indicating they are somehow privy to the terms of his contract. Or that they have some kind of vested interest in him doing the interview rounds. When did film fandom turn into this? Was it when we all just shrugged and accepted that Monday morning box office results were no longer the domain of studio insiders but the baseball scores of nerdworld?
Here’s what you should care about when it comes to Jim Carrey and Kick-Ass 2: his performance. Is it good? That’s what matters, not his relationship with the corporate entity releasing his movie. Not what he does with his paycheck, unless you’re one of the financiers, I guess. What matters is what’s onscreen. The way that so-called film fans throw their allegiance behind movie franchises and corporate entities makes me very concerned for the future of the medium. Why aren’t we supporting the artists? Why do we side with the money men?