Just because an artist is “good” at one thing does not mean that they must stick to that thing — and it also doesn’t mean that any of their sideline artistic endeavors should remain private, no matter how bad they are. The very nature of a celebrity’s life makes all of their work much more public. If James Franco writes a short story, is he going to post it to an unseen Tumblr, or is he going to pitch it to Esquire, who will run it, quality be damned, for the clicks? If Shia LaBeouf is going to start actively devoting himself to Metamodernism, we’re all going to know about it. His forays into art are not going to be unseen things, because he is not, as much as he says he wants to be, an unseen person. This is exactly the type of thing Kanye is fighting against — and yet we chastise him for it.
Kanye, more than anything, seems to wish that he could toil away at fashion in obscurity, that he could go to school and learn from the masters before he’s forced to make clothes on a public stage. But his very existence denies him that. He’s made that storefront bed for himself. You can blame him for that, for marrying a reality TV star. But you can’t blame him for not just lying idly in that bed.
In Smith’s takedown of Franco, she writes, “Perhaps James Franco should just stick to acting. He remains embarrassingly clueless when it comes to art.” What is wrong with cluelessness? Isn’t every artist, at their beginning, clueless? The difference is that “every artist” works through that cluelessness in private, which is a luxury celebrities either aren’t afforded or, at the very least, do not choose. And what artist would choose to work in private, their work unseen?
Getting angry at these famous dilettantes is, at its very base, getting angry at people for doing ambitious things. And that’s where the old adage comes in: if you don’t like it, don’t look at it. The next time a superstar writes a short story, don’t click on it. I dare you. But if you do, don’t complain about it.