Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Artist And The Ego.

I caught the last half of '8 Mile' on Friday night. My Netflix was broken, and I panicked and furiously searched through the channels for something that wasn't 'Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives' or 'Friends' reruns. I was only a few minutes into 8 Mile, the tough-as-nails with a heart-of-gold protagonist that will stop at nothing to become a musician, before I realized that Eminem's 2002 film debut may be the biggest wank-piece of all time.

I guess you may be asking yourself, what, exactly, do I mean by 'wank-piece'? I mean that there may has well been a '8 Mile' DVD commentary of Eminem just jacking it for two hours straight to his hard-knocks, against-all-odds biographical piece.

Then, it started to become clear in my head. 50 Cent did it in 'Get Rich Or Die Trying' , considerably worse than Em, but he did it. We watched Weezy kick it documentary-style with 'The Carter', where the word 'genius' was thrown around every third sentence. Outside of the film world, we have watched Robert Frank document his travels through the southern US in 'The Americans' with striking black and white photos, the delightful David Sedaris poke fun at life's foibles in his yearly publishing of essays, and parents that call up the news because they are sure that their child is the next Picasso. That is to say, I think that all art is built on a solid foundation of ego and insecurity. 

The very nature of publicly-released art, to put it in different terms, is to create something and to think it is so amazing and wonderful and special that the whole world must see it. Tacking a painting on the wall, or publishing a blog post, or keeping a carefully curated Instagram is a way of shouting to the world "I matter! There are many works of art on the world, but mine is important! Please think mine is important! Please?"

I recall the first time anyone ever told me I was a good writer. We had been tasked to write a short story about Halloween in second grade. I spent a weekend crafting a picture book about a bunch of missing pumpkins. When I got to school on Monday, I watched the rest of the class hand in single-page stories. I walked my hand-bound book to the front of the class, and watched the sparkle in the teacher's eye as I placed it into the pile. I could've just thrown together a quick Halloween tale, but I spent the entire weekend buried in homework, and why? Because I wanted to feel important. I wanted to hear that this was my calling. I wanted to impress someone, everyone. 

The creative mind is held at high regard in our culture. Take for example, most musicians nowadays are also filmmakers, modern artists, or actors, and we just accept this, because they are good at one aspect of creativity, and must be good at others. It is a rat-race to be the most influential, the most profound. Last year, Miley Cyrus took all of the stuff that people throw to her on stage, glued it together, and the art world collectively jizzed. We, as a society, stroked this ego-centric project, instead of laughing it off and secretly hoping she didn't ever ditch the Hannah Montana act. True artistic critique flew out the window a long time ago, in favor of public recognizability and media presence.

What does writing mean to me? It means putting down my thoughts and feelings on paper, stringing together words, celebrating the English language.  I've always said that nobody reads this blog, and I like it that way, but the question begs to be ask: why would I spend hours a week in front of a screen, typing and editing, if I didn't inherently care about how I would be portrayed in the world as a writer? Why would I bother? Let's not kid ourselves. As I type this, I may as well be wanking it with the other hand (figuratively, you assholes. Don't be gross).

~sarah p.

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