Seeing as how it is January of a new year (2023), the winter sports are winding down, and the summer sports are just getting started with training camp. With a substantial percentage of the population remaining indoors, this becomes award season. I won’t bother naming them. The award season is where some very rich, lucky, or related to the right people, get together and congratulate each other. The rich and famous don lavish attire, the ladies in designer dresses (sometimes revealing) and sporting jewelry that it would take the average Jane or Joe decades of their salaries to buy. I’m not opposed to the filthy-rich recognizing good work; however, all artistic work is recognized in context. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Some people enjoy watching the elites, the fashion, the bling, and I must admit, it used to be interesting. Let the record state that I hold no ill will to any of the nominees, and I like watching movies, (sometimes) television, and listening to music. The people who make it to the mainstream entertainment media are, for the most part, gifted and talented people. There are even programs that specialize in the materials wealth and lifestyles of the rich and famous. As a modest coworker of mine once said: “If I can’t have it, I don’t want to see it.”
Watch bad movies, listen to bad music, and you’ll know why the really gifted deserve recognition. But maybe there are stars that were never given the opportunities, authors whose words were never published, or they were never given the opportunities that the stars received. Charlize Theron was “discovered” in a bank, yelling at the teller. She is a great actress and I even have her autograph, before she was a superstar, courtesy of her agent.
Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. But there are a few, who will remain nameless, who “knew the right people” or were related to the right people; that can help a lot, especially in Hollywood. The average member of the actor’s union in Los Angeles makes $67,000 a year, while the “bankable” stars make millions. If your average actor wants to buy an off-the-rack Armani tuxedo it would be $1,400, with a bespoke (custom fitted) tux being well into the thousands. Of course that’s nothing to the superstars.
Entertainment is a business, after all, and whatever talent someone might have, if it can make money, they are paid accordingly. There is an entertainment saying, that you should be nice to the people you meet while you are on your way up, because they will be the same people you will meet on your way down.
Vincent Van Gogh sold very few of his paintings while he was alive. The greatest way to become a famous poet is to die. The internet was supposed to be a great equalizer, where unknown musicians could become famous by broadcasting their music over the internet instead of over the airways and the corporations who ignore them. It doesn’t seem that the internet has worked as well as it was intended for all of the undiscovered talent. We now have famous “influencers” of which I could not name you so much as one single person.
There are dozens (hundreds?) of very talented people who never got that first break. As much as I hate to say it, radio stations in my neighborhood tend to play the same well-known and very worn-out music, with few opportunities for unknown talented musicians who could do as well. There is a lot of great music that you will probably never hear, great actors you will never get to see.
Please allow me to note that composers like Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, and Chopin, to name but a few, are still having their music performed hundreds of years later. It remains to be seen if Tupac, Kanye and all of the others will have people playing and enjoying their compositions two centuries from now. Artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and countless others, whose art is nothing less than astonishing, will still be in the museums. Whether some of the newer artists will be broadcast decades from now, remains a question: I will leave that judgment up to you, dear readers.
Again, I certainly have no grudges against modern contemporary artists. I would also note, though, that very few of them appear to have been classically trained. That said not in criticism, just an observation. I wish them all the luck in the world, even though some of them have had a lot more luck than many, many others.
So if you like watching the filthy-rich get together, wearing clothes and jewelry that you could never come close to owning, slap each other on the back, and some even doing some slapping in the face, then please, by all means, enjoy. I will be looking at art and movies from sometime in the past, and listening to musicians who passed away decades ago. There is a reason why some art is described as “classic,” as it is not littered with profanity, or references to drugs, murder and felonies. Beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder.
Jeffrey Neil Jackson is an
Educator & Literary Mercenary