money both dirty and/or sexy

10/15/07

Man, you get some interesting responses anytime Art and Commerce are forced into a fistfight – with people overwhelmingly choosing Commerce as their favorite. The comments/emails from yesterday’s blog show what an uphill battle it is to get people to understand the larger picture.

In a nutshell, these are the major deceits:

1) Nobody should pay for art, it should just exist so we can enjoy it.

2) Artists are, by and large, “getting away with it.”

3) Doing art for a living isn’t a Real Job.

4) Artists should consider themselves lucky to get anything because so many other people will be happy to do it for free.

5) TV writers, movie scribes, architects, hairdressers and the people who write all the words on a website are not artists.

6) Art is demonstrably less important than money, sports, science, alcohol and most sex.

All to which, no offense, I call utter bullshit. Maybe the problem is using the term “art” when it has such pretentious implications. I wish there were a better word for it, but for now I’ll stick with this formula: Anything someone creates from their imagination for the enjoyment, edification, reaction or affirmation of their fellow man = ART.

As such, art is as important as every single fucking thing listed above, unless you want to live in a country where all the houses are square, where there are no stories, where there are no pictures or paintings, everyone’s hair is a dull brown or grey, and nobody shares any cultural experience outside of the NFL. Take the NFL off that list, and you’ve got Albania in the 1950s.

This stuff is like oxygen; you don’t realize how much you depend upon it until it’s gone. And bit by bit, that’s happening: already music is pretty much extinct from most public school systems, and when it’s budget-crunch time, who gets the money, the sculpting department who wants a kiln, or the defensive linebackers who want new crotch cups?

In essence, that’s why I say this fight between the WGA and the major studios can be construed into a much bigger picture: it’s the same damn thing being played out on a larger scale. Tregen claims that nobody in Hollywood wants a living, they only want to make it big – again, somehow, writers are “getting away with it.” Andrew compares the WGA to a bunch of florists. In doing so, you’ve both played perfectly into the hands of giant companies who want nothing more than to dismiss all of us as entitled, pathetic twits.

They don’t have to try very hard, when you’re doing their work for them. It’s so easy when the American caricature of a self-proclaimed artist is a self-obsessed, needy idler who is probably a fag. People in this country are cruel to many people – different races, the gays, fat women – but they reserve their deepest hatred for those who, by their estimation, “don’t work for a living.”

And god frickin’ forbid that they ask to be paid for their contributions. This has led to most artists simply not asking for money, believing, in a self-loathing haze, they aren’t worth it. Thank god my dad, an amazing symphony conductor, taught me early on to FUCKING GET PAID for any work you do, and not meekly consider it an honor just to be invited.

In this country, you are rewarded for having a real job. Many of you, reading this right now, are being paid to sit in that chair in the morning, when fully 50% of you would rather be doing anything else. The fact that you don’t act on that “anything else” is guaranteeing you health insurance and food for your kids, and I have unfathomable respect for that.

Someone who has chosen to be a writer can’t do your job; they’d be no good at it. If they were in Neva’s shoes, they’d prescribe the wrong medicine; if they were in Kevin from NC’s bike shop, they’d destroy every derailleur they came across. Writers at our stage of the game have worked their lives to get here, and can’t do anything else, just like you can’t.

I don’t mean to pick on anyone specifically from the comments, and I’m sorry for singling anyone out. But this is a battle we’re destined to fight for the rest of our lives. There’s no more money in journalism, nothing in novels or non-fiction, and off-Broadway is a pauper’s game. There’s hardly any money left in movies. The only place anyone can make a living writing anymore is in television, and now we’re being told that we’re worthless. As Winston Churchill said, that is something up with which we will not put.