I often ask myself, whether reading a comic book, listening to music or watching a movie, am I enjoying the experience because it is art, or am I simply being entertained? Another thing that I consider is not so much whether one is better than the other, but whether it is wrong to consider something art when it is merely entertainment or vice versa.
At what point does something become art? Art, to me, is when a creator or artist makes a piece of work with the purest of intentions, i.e. money being no consideration. Creating art for the sake of art. The problem with this idea is that we live in the real world of the 21st Century, where nothing is free. An artist has to live, so therefore an artist has to be paid. At what point does an artist sell out? When they recoup their costs of materials? When they recoup that plus rent and food? When they recoup those things plus take care of their family? This is a slippery slope that fast becomes a gray area. The art fast becomes product, and is that really such a bad thing? If it is something of quality that was created with pure intentions and not made for profit, is it wrong for the artist to collect a paycheck, even a handsome one, from it? The fruits of their labor, so on and so forth? I personally see nothing wrong with an artist making money, even obscene amounts of money, from their work if it comes from a place of truth. The trick here is maintaining the original integrity once the artist gets their payday. This is when we go from “art” to “product”.
The next question I often ask myself is whether I am full of shit when I am experiencing art, be it music, comic books, etc. If something moves me, is it because I am feeling the effects of the art, or is it because it hit a sweet spot and entertained me? And if so, is it so wrong to admit that I am being merely entertained? Is it so wrong to admit that you like passing time with quality entertainment? When does entertainment transcend and become art? Is such a thing even possible? And again, is it wrong to be entertained by art? Is it possible that one of simple intellect not get the artistic merits of something and be merely entertained? If one doesn't get the intention of the artist, but they are entertained by the work, does that relegate their opinion of the work, good or bad, to something of ridicule because they didn't get it?
Does the intention of the artist determine the merit of the work? What if a creator is a first rate shyster, able to shit out a body or work (be it a painting, music, etc.) without it meaning anything more than a payday to him/her? I will use the Rock group Kiss as a primary example of this. They are all admittedly businessmen first and foremost, with everything else being secondary from day one. Their entire mission has been to become rich, and they have succeeded. Their music, however, has moved millions of people around the world. Does this music, which was created simply to make money, become art because of its effect on people regardless of the creator's intent? Does the product become art, or has the art become a commodity?
I have no answers to these questions. I have gone back and forth with many of my opinions and convictions over the years, and am sitting comfortably in a middle ground of experiencing something and then deciding if I like it or not. I purchase music, books, movie tickets, etc., so as a consumer of art does that make my opinion more or less relevant than someone who pirates intellectual property from the Internet? Is pirating from the Internet different than going to the library? (The answer is yes.) I put my money where my mouth is. The moral of the story, if indeed there is one, is to support the artists you like. Otherwise they might not be able to afford to give you more of what you enjoy, whether or not is art or entertainment, and have to get real jobs. That is the tragedy of digital media, and the fallout hasn't even become apparent yet.