Blog

The Unbearable Unfairness of Being

So I saw an artist last week.... an NPR-darling kind of artist. A two-nights-sold-out-at-the-Ace-hotel-indie-hip kind of artist. Well reviewed, and well loved among a certain crowd. And all was fine and well when he took out a bottle of Jameson from his prop-suitcase, poured a drink, while lingering on his "that's right, I'm drankin" wink-wink sort of smile, Jameson bottle prominently held, long enough for the crowd to enthusiastically endorse drinking while at work. My friend leaned over to me and whispered "He's endorsed by Jameson" which I found funny and started laughing. Ha! So funny. lol. laughing/crying emoji. 

Cut to only crying emoji. Clearly I thought my friend was being witty. "No, he's actually endorsed by Jameson". 

Unamused face emoji.

This elicited a reaction which I analyzed the entire rest of the show. Because at that moment, I hated him and I thought he must be the biggest phony in show business. Which is unfair, of course. And I'm not generally one to call out anyone as a "sell out", particularly post-kids, I clearly understand earning money as a valid motivation for many a thing I may have scoffed at in my youth. (Younger youth, that is. I'm totally still young.)

Rolling Stones still touring? The Eagles reunion? Lenny Kravitz for the Gap? I will cynically assume that these are all career moves based on monetary compensation, and not their immeasurable creative rewards. None of these bother me. But maybe its the blatant product-placement in a glossy-I-swear-this-moment-is-genuine package which gets me. Maybe its the fact that all of these fans paid for tickets, which in my mind, should exempt them from being advertised to. Maybe its the fact that I had my suspicions about this mans musical authenticity to begin with, and the Jameson moment just had me questioning if his heart is in any of it. I mean, a "real" musician drinks on stage quietly, right? Because its about the music, not the fact that he's drinking on stage, and certainly not the fact that he's somehow a walking advertisement for said drink.

Still, I think I'm being unfair.  But maybe part of being an artist is just unfair. Life's not fair, right? For so many people in so many ways, and maybe by being an artist, the unfair expectations should be.... expected? Is it fair to expect artists to put their own self interests aside for the greater good of their art? Is it problematic that we have romanticized the "starving artist" idea? Has that devalued what artists do? Made it ok to steal their product and leave the path to success full of unappreciated, unpaid years through which very few people can (literally) survive? Because they should be doing it for the love of their art, not money, right?

......But shouldn't they? I can't reconcile it myself, because of course artists should do whatever they personally need to do and if one Jameson deal sends his kid to college, then who am I to judge? But at the same time, if we can't expect artists to sacrifice for the greater good, for keeping the sacredness of the arts intact, for being true to a vision that isn't driven by greed or money or success, then who will? Who among us will sacrifice their own self interests for a greater purpose? Mothers. That's who. All we've got are mothers and artists.