Don’t talk to me ‘bout MCs got skills/
He’s alright but he’s not real.
Robert Crumb is a very talented draftsman and a brilliant cartoonist but his brilliance is diminished by his conservative mindset. I first encountered his work through the documentary “Crumb” so I saw the good, bad and the ugly.
The ugly is that Crumb is a liar.
Watching him try to awkwardly explain his sexist and racist comics said more about him than his work itself does. All of his take-no-prisoners attitude is bravado. He is afraid and for all his navel-gazing, he’s afraid to look deeper into himself than a cursory “look at this awful thing that came out of my mind! I’m so unfiltered!”
The film is fantastic, Crumb’s drawings are fantastic, Crumb’s visual-minded storytelling is fantastic. But at the end of the day, Robert Crumb is more fantasy than fantastic. At the moment of truth, being asked directly about the most directly-offensive of his works, Crumb just flubs through his response. He wasn’t put on the spot, this film was made over a period of time and the filmmaker is someone that he knew personally. But he can’t even handle being direct about the most obvious question of his work. That lack of self-awareness, self-examination, lack of conviction, lack of expressed insight into one’s own work: it’s a character flaw. Guy is ultimately a coward.
It isn’t brave to “express your darkest thoughts” if you’re going to cower and make up obvious false explanations (“it was about how commodified everything is!” C’mon son.) then you’re not being honest. True honesty is more difficult than Crumb has revealed in his work or in his interviews.
Crumb’s not honest, he’s an exhibitionist. He doesn’t reveal unvarnished personal truths, he makes offensive stuff just to do it. That’s his business. No problem. He can draw. But it’s all hot air. He’s alright but he’s not real.
Something I’ve always thought about Robert Crumb but could never have articulated so well.