Method to the Madness: A Case for Society’s Avante Garde

There is no great genius without some touch of madness. --- Aristotle

Morgan Covington
Steve Jobs, who spearheaded Apple to global dominance, reflects on his unorthodox and challenged life in his biography

Steve Jobs, an architect for the rapid transformation of modern technology, notoriously fired and rehired his employees on various occasions. Stanley Kubrick, often regarded as one of the most influential film directors ever conceived, constantly belittled actress Shelley Duvall on set of The Shining, to the point where many account her mental degradation to the experience. Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of global phenomenon Facebook, wears the same, grey t-shirt on a daily basis.

Throughout history, figures dubbed innovative and/or influential are often labeled by the masses as unhinged due in part to their unconventional practices. The tortured artist narrative, in particular, has become a staple in contemporary society, associating some affliction of mental illness as the driving force for creative expression.

Unfortunately, most consumers fail to recognize the degree of intricacy in their character.

Dangerous assumptions are made about these prominent figures’ true nature, rooted almost entirely on publicly known events or actions. Interviewing people associated with the figure has also played a factor in these pervasive assessments, thoroughly analyzing the subjective perception of these often unreliable subjects. All in an attempt to garner some insight or semblance into the elaborate faculties of their psyche.

Anything to feel truly connected to the respected individual. 

In this article, we will examine the criticisms imposed on these individuals by a society that’s unreasonably fixated on understanding their questionable and unknowable tendencies, while also arguing that these tendencies were essential to creating these inimitable works. 

Society’s desire to conserve their legacies, whilst building upon them, has certainly factored into their continued relevance and appreciation. 

A sense of admiration and respect for these figures is certainly a common facet in modern society. Christopher Nolan, for example, triumphantly advocates the preservation of film as a medium because of his respect for the late film auteur. He also cites Kubrick’s impact on the medium, specifically 2001: A Space Odyssey,  as having a major influence to his own contributions.

To replicate the success of their predecessors, the implementation of their techniques has become fixated in the minds of the impressionable.  

The strange habits associated with society’s avant garde aren’t without controversy, however. Stanley Kubrick, whose private life was shrouded in mystery, was constantly bombarded with fictitious and exaggerated portrayals of his actions via the media. Steve Jobs, whose definition of a good product meant nothing less than perfection, was seen as an uncaring and vulgar individual by both the masses and his contemporaries. Mark Zuckerberg, who significantly changed the perception of social media’s relationship with man, is characterized as being “robotic” and manipulative in various forms of entertainment.

Though generally perceived as unstable, these figures have made significant strides because of their unconventional actions and behaviors. 

Without these unorthodox practices, however, huge strides in artistic expression, and redefinition of entertainment norms, would sadly be lacking in contemporary society. If not for his constant contentions of Duvall’s attitude and performance, Kubrick would not have been able to bring out her most recognized contribution. If not for Jobs’ insistence for practically pristine products, his associates would not have been as motivated to create top quality machinery, which, in essence, would significantly delay the development of these convenient technologies. Finally, if not for Zuckerberg’s insatiable drive to distinguish himself, people’s ability to connect with one another would largely regress.

Though these figures have made significant contributions to the modern world, the desire to understand the complexities of their characters has dominated the societal narrative to outrageous proportions. To fill in the void of these unknowable characteristics, people often project their own desired and undesirable attributes to these figures, establishing a mostly negative and over-simplified view on these rather intricate beings.

People will never truly understand the motivations behind these renowned figures’ actions. Although their methods may constantly be called into question by the masses, these acts have led to the development of some of the most innovative and influential works in human history. There is truly a method to the madness, something the general populous continuously fails to grasp.

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