The “artist”, the “creator”, as inherited from the Greek mythology and culture, is someone whose creative genius is inspired by the Gods or the Muses. There is something divine to it, something that transcends earthly concerns. Therefore, within the realm of art, any exterior and coercive influence is usually viewed as inherently bad or, at least, as suspicious.
It is particularly striking in the film industry, with the determining role of the studios. Some movies have several “cuts” because the original vision didn’t match the producers’ idea of the film, or the imposed length. (For instance, Blade Runner has been through seven different “cuts”, even though, today, the “director’s cut” is the most famous.) Actors’ demands or changes among creative teams, for instance, can also modify the original vision and first idea of a movie. Such mechanisms are particularly striking in the audiovisual, as the creating process is, from the beginning, plural. Yet, we can draw some parallels with the literary field, as well. Indeed, sometimes, some publishing houses may refuse a manuscript or impose drastic corrections.
However, on the other hand, some creators have been criticized for clinging too much to their work. For instance: the additions to the Harry Potter saga, J.K. Rowling made via Twitter. While some were globally well-received, others sparked controversy, whether because they were considered unneeded information, or because they felt like a desperate and clumsy attempt to debunk some small incoherence in the original saga. In the same way, many critics and viewers didn’t praise Ridley Scott’s attempt to, in a way, “regain control” of the Alien’s saga, with his two prequels: Prometheus and Alien Covenant.
Viewers, then, also have power over artistic creation. Their expectations and hopes can influence the way a show is written. And if those expectations are ignored or badly handled, it can lead the audience rating to drop.
Therefore, to what extent an author remains the master of his work? Once a book, a film, or TV show enters the creation process, does it still belong solely to the author? What about once it is released? Does it, at some point, automatically become part of a larger community, which also has some right of inspection? If so, what are, or should be, the power of this larger community?
Roland Barthes' essay 'Death of the Author' might fit within this discussion. It argues that the author's identity should not form part of their text's interpretation. Therefore, one might conclude that, once a story has been read or viewed, it is up to the reader/viewer to decide what happens outside of the story world; not the author. – Samantha Leersen1 month ago