Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Monday, April 11, 2005
I have to question my own artistic integrity. Yesterday, I was at Disneyland, celebrating a friend's birthday and testing out the new Buzz Lightyear ride at Tomorrowland (it's an amusing interactive ride that distracts you from the unoriginality of its content by having you shoot various targets placed throughout. It's pretty fun and warrants repeat rides).

While walking by one section of a park, they had a band performing. They weren't famous, nor did they seem like the type of band that ever will be. I immediately had my usual thought when seeing a band performing at a theme park or for a commercial: "Way to go on selling out! Who needs artistic integrity, huh?"

But then another thought popped into my head. What if, as an aspiring playwright who works an office job to support himself, the Disney Corporation came up to me and said, "We'll pay you various moneys to write the book for the next unbelievably cheesy musical that we're going to put up at the Hyperion Theatre in California Adventure. What do you say?" The first thing I would say would be, "Did you just say 'various moneys'?" Then my next reply would probably be, "Where do I sign?"

At what point does one "sell out"? Does it count if you're unknown to begin with? I know several serious actors who started off performing at Disneyland (I don't mean to say that I "know" them, but know of their existence. I don't have Steve Martin's home phone...so stop asking). If you don't really have a celebrity status to sell, wouldn't those early transgressions count as just a job, especially if you were fully aware of their creatively-draining capabilities and made an effort to rise above such projects?

After all, Lawrence Fishburne was Cowboy Carl in "Pee Wee's Playhouse". And George Clooney was in "Return of the Killer Tomatoes". And Leonardo DiCaprio did what I can only imagine was fine work in "Critters 3". I don't hear anyone complain about those actors taking those roles, because they have done better work since.

So where does one lose their artistic integrity? When they become the spokesman for shampoo in Japan? When they phone in their supporting role in "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous"? When they do (gasp! shudder!) network television?

I think of the people and places that I know of that have held a firm grasp on their artistic integrity, only seeking out the best projects to lend their name to. The Hunger Artists Theatre Company, David O. Russell, Rufus Wainwright, etc. These are only a few examples of artists who have a vision that they hold on to, and it has paid off for them. However, will I be able to make that balance between fiscal responsibility and artistic quality? Only time will tell...

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