January 20, 2003

Star struck

Bill Whittle is back with a long essay on celebrities who seem to think that the fact they earn lots of money for pretending to be other people makes them Our Betters.

I'll use this as an opportunity to remark on the notion of the idea of the artist as a superior form of human, brought up in this cancelled thread. I do think that the presence of superior talent in one form or another of the artistic pursuits awes those people who don't have such hypertrophied skills. Every human being has an instinctive response to what we call "art" -- there is no civilization that does not produce it, that does not somehow design its buildings and utensils to be pleasing to the eye as well as useful, that does not paint pictures or designs on flat surfaces, that does not form wood or mineral substances into shapes that are not useful in themselves, and that does not produce some sort of musical noise. It's part of being human. So it is natural when someone who is very good at doing one or another of these things -- making designs or music or pretending to be someone else (acting) -- that those of us who have no particularly strong talents in these areas should think that the artistic person must be an all-around superior type of being. But that is not the case at all. What an artist has is a superior talent in one field, and it is often at the price of any other field of endeavor that human beings think is important, such as social relations. That is why so many artists have such crappy personal lives, why so many of them show themselves to be utter idiots when they open their mouths to opine on any other topic but their particular field of expertise, why they don't seem to have a lick of sense when it comes to the smallest everyday tasks. This is of course a simplistic breakdown of the situation, and there are many artists who have fine marriages and manage to make their car payments on time and don't attempt to talk knowledgeably about things they don't understand (such as geopolitical politics) and aren't total creeps to their fans, but they are in the minority, or at least that is what I have come to conclude after years of associating with artists, musicians, and writers.

Update: Here is an example of an actress who has not sacrified her dignity and common sense to the fostering of her "talent." Could this be the start of a trend? One can only hope. (Via Junkyard Blog.)

Posted by Andrea Harris at January 20, 2003 11:37 AM

I don't watch her show, but I've read and seen a few interviews with her. I've always come away impressed. She has somethign lacking in Hollywood these days: class.

Posted by: Ith at January 20, 2003 at 12:56 PM

Next to memorial services for deceased politicians from Minnesota and anything starring Whoopie Goldberg, Hollywood awards shows are, I humbly submit, the most loathsome form of public spectacle that I can think of. Last night, NBC's Boomtown, one of the few really creative and interesting TV dramas on air right now was supplanted by the Golden Frigging Globe Awards. I am thankful and grateful for Patricia Heaton's stand. I am now MORE likely to watch her show than I was before.

Posted by: Zeb Trout at January 20, 2003 at 05:31 PM

Crudity has spread to the NFL, too. I was watching the NFC championship (Eagles-Buccaneers), and Ja Rule was the halftime entertainment (dueting with Ashanti). I could hardly believe that he was singing what he was singing in that particular venue - the lyrics might not have been X-rated, but they were hard-R. I was flabbergasted - especially when I contrasted that "performance" with LL Cool J's, who did the halftime at the Raiders-Titans game and filled his own number with football, religious and anti-drug statements.

Posted by: Joe at January 20, 2003 at 07:18 PM

That was a really terrific post, Andrea.

Posted by: Emily at January 20, 2003 at 07:45 PM

Let's not forget the equally repellent nature of those who put artists on a pedestal so far above the Common Ignoramus that there's no way possible for said artist to EVER live up to their billing. This phenomenon is equally to blame for the "superior artist complex" -- maybe if everybody quit telling them how glorious they are, they might stop (or not start) believing it.

Posted by: Scott at January 20, 2003 at 08:40 PM

But no society has yet achieved the pinnacle - "Bullfighting Elvises Playing Poker on Black Velvet"

Gawd, it's late. Goodnight.

Posted by: Ken Summers at January 22, 2003 at 12:14 AM