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Altered

Yesterday, I fell into an old trap- Reading the comments following a *political post* on social media. As usual, I disagreed with more than half of those who felt they needed to vent their opinion about the topic at hand. I’ve learned to leave these comments alone, not respond, and allow my anger and frustration to gradually dissipate. The next step is learning not to read these comments at all. Baby steps…

The post in question was about artists, and whether or not they should be allowed to share their personal opinions about the issues of the day. The idea was these artists existed to entertain, period. And somehow, that entertainment precluded them from talking about anything at all. “Just sing and act,” many said. “You are here to be a distraction from reality, an escape.”

One comment in particular stood out, and actually caused me to lose sleep last night. This person claimed he had never, not once had a song or film impact his life or teach him anything. I kept hoping that his statements were hyperbole, meant to drive home the uselessness of the artist more than art itself, but he continued to press about the triviality, banality of music and films. Mindless entertainment, pure and simple. He could live without it.

I felt a wave of sadness. How unfortunate for this person, how tragic. Imagine, never having your heart stirred by a song, never having that moment when you knew  the singer, the musicians understood you on a level no one else ever had, when you felt that connection to something, someone outside of your small circle. Imagine no film ever impacting you, making you want to do more with your life, be better. Or no work of art ever inspiring you to see the world differently, or bringing you to tears.

I could list moment after moment where art has made my life infinitely better, where someones words or music helped me understand the world better. So many films and stories have exposed me to ideas, ways of living and thinking that otherwise would remain beyond my ability to comprehend.

I was up last night trying to construct how different my life would be without a passion for art. I didn’t like how that world felt. It was an empty place, one with less love, compassion, understanding.

I don’t want to think about that sort of world anymore. I think I’ll go listen to some music, and later, read a book. music

 

Someone to Save Us All

Every few years, some new band, writer, artists, comes along with a clever idea. Sometimes that artist radically changes the course of their given art form. Other times, the artist hearkens back to a past time, offering a new perspective on an old idea. Almost every time this happens, the relevant media (magazines, reviewers, etc) lauds the artist with too much praise, or criticism. One common phrase-(Insert artist here) has saved (insert art form) from certain demise. Fresh roses after piles of manure.

So and so saved rock and roll, modern art, fiction, film.

Nope, not in the least.

Every art form has peaks, valleys and plains. Some periods are more interesting to more people but no particular period is an eternal determent to the entire art form.

Publishers, record labels, major film studios exist to make money(and there is nothing wrong with that, right). They exist to provide entertainment and education for people, at a cost (again, which is fine). These organizations work best when good art and profit combine. Good being as subjective a term as you can imagine it to be. It is the theory that talent scouts, agents, etc. are seeking those with the most talent to write books, music and film. I like to think art being displayed at a gallery is of high quality. We expect the music we buy to be performed by talented musicians, the books we read to be by written by good storytellers, good researchers, good writers.  Sometimes it is.

My experiences in music have lead me to believe that rarely are the best artists getting paid or getting big record deals, which leads me to wonder the same about other art forms. I don’t know enough about underground writing, art, movies to make a judgement, but when I look at music, I see the best are often making music in obscurity.

Which leads to this- If you find the current trend in art, fashion, film, music or fiction to not be your cup of tea, do some searching. You will find that your favorite medium is not in any jeopardy. Someone, many actually, are out  creating some of the best (insert medium) you have ever seen, heard or read.

Our current information age lets more of us find each other, discover art that moves, music that inspires and books that spark imagination. Not everything being self-published is worth finding, but then again, neither is everything put out by mainstream organizations.

One of my favorite authors gave this speech on why self-publishing sucks and publishers rule http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/06/john-green-never-self-publish?CMP=twt_gu

It’s mostly crap, but there are some good points. Quality editing is a must. If you write something, let someone else read it with the sole purpose of finding mistakes (there will be plenty), but good editors are not exclusive to publishing companies. Good marketing is the best way to get your work widely read, heard or seen, but the advent of social media has made it much easier to reach a target audience without having to resort to paid marketing. No good works are ever produced in an isolated vacuum. Art is at its most poignant when it is shared. This includes the creation process. Getting opinions on ideas, direction, whatever can only serve to make whatever you are creating better. Again, this is not exclusive to publishing houses, record studios or the like. People you already know or can easily seek out are just as valuable a resource.

American literature is not in trouble, nor is music or film. It is as it always has been, shifting, progressing, regressing at times, but the more of us involved in making it, the better off it will be.

After a Few Pondering Hours

After I wrote and posted yesterdays blog, I spent some time wondering if maybe I had missed the mark. I read the article again and I still think I am spot on.

However…

A friend of mine posted a different article taking about reasons certain Oscar night jokes were  minimizing women, dehumanizing them, and after reading it, I spent a good deal of time rethinking my argument.

Was I missing the point?

I am usually quick  to call BS on racism, sexism, homophobia, when I think it is hateful or misguided, not tolerating it in my home and personal interactions. I firmly believe women are still subject to a different set of rules than men, and fight to remedy that. Things are getting better, but there is still much to do.

Having spent a great deal of time as an undergraduate, studying feminist theory, agreeing with it, I understood exactly where this author was positioning herself. While this particular piece was leaps and bounds better (and more focused) than the New Yorker, with arguments centered on why the jokes were harmful, not just complaining they weren’t funny, I feel it suffers from wanting to be an indictment of Hollywood itself (which would be a much more interesting piece), rather than why MacFarlane ‘s misogyny is so egregious.

We get stats on how many more men than women won awards, of how few non-performance awards are given to women, percentages of academy voters who are male. All interesting and valid, all of which deserve notice and are very telling about the culture of Hollywood, yet none of this has anything to do with the host, or what he said.

In fact, we hear instead how the humor, though offensive, was actually not cutting edge.

“Women are nags, and Jews run Hollywood! Thank you, Seth MacFarlane, for this cutting-edge humor.”

I could argue the same for this article-“Women are seen as sexual objects and dehumanized by the patriarchy, thanks for the cutting-edge writing.”

This was supposed to be comedy. A time to take ourselves a bit less seriously. Funny for some, not for everyone.

My opinions-

“We saw your boobs” was humorous. None of the films or actors mentioned were diminished because of it. I may, in fact watch some of these movies, not to see bare breasts, but acting performances.

Saying MacFarlane doesn’t care what Salma Hayek says because she is so pretty, but leaving out his inclusion of Javier Bardem in that statement seems disingenuous; deliberately misleading at worst. He also made fun of himself, his art and films, the losers, pretentious Hollywood, the list goes on.

Both articles have a Glenn Beck moment where they draw chalk lines from a joke about ‘the orgy’ being at Jack Nicholson’s house to Polanski and child rape. Sure, it’s true, but really a bit of a stretch.

The conversation on the exclusion of women is an important one and should be the focus of the debate, not the obvious and frivolous jokes of an Oscar host.

I still consider myself a feminist, but these articles are overreactions.

Very Delicately

At one family dinner, over a game of Apples to Apples, an ongoing family joke was born.

The card was Anne Frank. Austen was choosing the winning answer. As he turned one over, he burst out laughing, declaring it the instant winner. The word was ‘woebegone’.

Most of the family, found this response equally hilarious. My father did not.

“That’s just not funny,” he said.

Austen replied, “What, too soon?”

“There are some things you just don’t joke about.”

Apparently Jewish girls who were victims of the Holocaust fall into that category.

Last night, at the Academy Awards, Seth MacFarlane hosted what some are calling a very misogynistic Oscar night. Here is one example from the New Yorker. To summarize, The night was full of ridiculous and childish humor, some focused on women. I am not going to dispute  some of the jokes were in poor taste, depending on perspective. Jokes about George Clooney liking much younger women, Chris Brown beating his girlfriend Rihanna, or women holding a grudge are certainly offensive to some, hilarious to others.

Perhaps I am misguided, but I did not sense any hateful intent behind the humor. Maybe that is what makes the difference for me.

The tone of the New Yorker blog says I am wrong. Some things just aren’t funny. What things are permanently off the table of comedy? Funny how the overused and expected joke about Abraham Lincoln was not too over the top for this article (“I would argue, however, that the actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth”), while jokes about boobies can only have one interpretation. Comedy with social commentary, implicit meaning,  is apparently dangerous, mean spirited and not to be tolerated.

We know that Daniel Day Lewis was not implying Meryl Streep looked mannish when he joked that Spielberg originally wanted her to play Lincoln, yet we are to take every joke from MacFarlane as evidence of his personal misogyny.

I found MacFarlane to be a good combination of smug, silly, childish, serious, and at times, professional. He was boyish and stupid, reflective and gracious.

Is  the problem the public forum for the comedic effort? I know I read far worse and inflammatory things last night while following certain people on Twitter. If you’re the least bit curious, check hashtags for  Kristen Stewart or Adele. Perhaps this type of comedy is only funny in small groups of friends and family, things we should laugh at in close company and never in public (To be fair, I bet the author of the blog never finds certain things funny, which is of course, absolutely fine.  My fear is this person thinks that any of us who might feel differently are degenerates who are clearly anti-Semitic and hate women).

Either everything is on the table or nothing is.  Individuals can choose (yes, it is a choice) to be offended, choose to write blogs, complain, throw their hands up in the air in disgust, but they do not get to tell the rest of us how to think or feel, or what we are allowed to laugh about.

Until I Snort

I loved Ghostbusters. What a fantastically funny film. I must have watched it 50 or 60 times on a rapidly decaying VHS tape. Finally this past week, I bought a copy on DVD for a whopping five bucks at the local Shopko.

With giddy excitement, I put it in the player and sat down to relive my teens and I was not disappointed. The capture of the first ghost at the hotel is still wicked funny. Mr Stay Puft rules as does the battle between Gozer and the Ghostbusters.

I am older (obviously) and some of the plot holes bother me a bit. I find the tension between Peter and the EPA bureaucrat a bit forced.  It don’t understand why Dana finds Peter less creepy and stalkerish because his business is more successful. In fact, their whole relationship never really develops and I don’t really get why they end up together. I was not bothered in the least by the bad effects (made more so with the clarity of DVD. Can’t imagine how bad they would be on blu ray). They actually made the show more humorous.

My favorite scene has always been just after the demon gargoyle crashes through Louis’s door. As he sprints to the elevator, an old woman comes out to check what all the fuss is about. Her one syllable reaction makes me laugh every time. Watch and giggle

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l93yUOJUx2g

Short and sweet today. I would like to know what your favorite 80’s movies are and what particular scenes or lines make your day. I am pondering a post about 80’s films that fail the test of time. Ideas?