Remember the 1991, Tony Scott film “The Last Boy Scout?” It’s flawed but kinda awesome too and has attained “cult classic” status. In it, Bruce Willis plays Joe Hallenbeck, a formerly decorated but then disgraced Secret Service agent, who’s now barely getting by as a private investigator. He ends up getting paired on a case with LA Stallions quarterback Jimmy Dix, played by Damon Wayans. If you haven’t seen, give it a watch. You’ll enjoy it.
A recurring sequence in the film is Joe confronting various people he’s mad at and asking them if they want to be punched in the head or the gut. Like this clip where Joe confronts his friend for sleeping with Joe’s wife. It’s Joe’s simple way of squaring things with those who’ve wronged him.
For some reason–don’t ask me why–I connected this sequence to making and receiving art. The question to ask:
Do you want to reach people in their heads or their guts?
Ideally it’s both, but if I had to choose one, I’d pick the gut. I want people to be emotionally moved and rattled and entertained first. That has to be there for me. Then, hopefully, they think about it afterwards.
And while you can’t control how your art is received, the answer to this question might reveal what kind of art you make. As well as how you manifest it; meaning the style, direction, design choices, etc…
So what it’s gonna be? Head or gut?