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November 15, 2004

Hollywood Hates You

Dawn Eden, Petite Powerhouse, has the story:

"The Hollywood community is incredibly distraught about the election results," said Vanessa Taylor, co-creator and co-executive producer of the WB's "Jack & Bobby."

"I'd say we're in a state of shocked disappointment."

One bit about Dawn's story that especially interests me is the shock that creative types feel when they learn they may have to shape their product to appeal to an audience. They seem to have this notion that an artist should be utterly free to "explore" whatever he likes, the audience be damned.


That is the singlemost stupid bit of solipsism I've ever heard in my life. Of course an artist needs to be mindful of his audience; if there's no audience, there's no artist. I was arguing about this on my thread at The Perfect World; someone (trying to be nice and helpful) suggested that I shouldn't restrain myself on this blog at all, but that I should write wholly to please myself. And that the audience would then follow.

Well, maybe, maybe not. Certainly one can't write as a completely different person and expect to be interesting or engaging or draw in many readers. But anyone determined to write solely to satisfy his own Muses will probably end up doing just that.

I'm not an artist, but an artist IS the audience, ultimately. At least if one wants to attract and maintain an audience.

The fiction that artist-types, or even lowly bloggers, should be/are uncompromisingly brave figures exploring their inner demons without any consideration of reward or popularity is, well, flat-out dopey.

James Spader was asked by Charlie Rose why he had decided to do the film Secretary (very good film, by the way, although the sexual nature of the material may put some off, but it's actually got an awful lot of heart and tenderness for an S&M/spank fetish movie). He became one of my favorite people in Hollywood when he said, "Well, I got this script, and then I realized that I was behind on my mortgage payments, so I agreed to do it." It's so refreshing that an actor just admits the obvious: "It's a job, Charlie. I need bread like anyone."

Mickey Spillaine was similarly honest at a writer's panel. They panel had been asked "Why do you choose to start writing a book?," and the typical crap about "needing to open a vein and get beart's blood on paper" was bandied about. Near the end of this nonsense, Spillaine asked, "Isn't anyone going to mention money? I usually start writing when I'm down to my last grand in the bank."

Again: It's the truth. Shouldn't our self-styled truth-tellers sort of want to tell the truth from time to time?

Andrew "No Offense Taken" Sullivan has frequently complained that he's losing audience due to his brave stance on FMA and his endorsement of John Kerry. I don't get that-- does Sullivan imagine his readership owes him loyalty? I guess a readership ought to have some small amount of loyalty, to the extent it ought to be willing to forgive, say, a momentary lapse in taste or judgment; if I wrote something especially cruel or nasty or obscene, I'd hope that most readers would forgive me, if I deleted it and then apologized swiftly enough.

But beyond that-- there is no loyalty to any writer or anyone in Hollywood, certainly. People read a particular blog or author, or see a particular movie, because they want to. If they like you, they keep coming back. If they don't, they don't. And they shouldn't. Making movies, writing books, and making dumb comments on a blog isn't a charitable enterprise like the Red Cross.

If I began just spouting racial epithets and hardcore pornography, who the hell would stick around? (Well, Fat Kid would stick around for the porn, I imagine.) Who would argue that I had some untrammelled right to "expore" my newfound passion for amateur videos and racism?

No one would argue that.

And yet there are many in Hollywood who insist on something quite like that. They belive there is a special category of humanity called "Artiste," and that these Artistes are unlike any other sort of person, in that they need to exercise no self-restraint or simple common sense in their dealings with others or the public generally. They ought to be immune to any ill-will or simple indifference from the audience; such ill-will or indifference constitutes an "chill wind" of suppresson of the Rights of the Artiste.

Get over yourselves. You've never behaved as if you owed us anything for the millions we put into your pockets. Do you really think we owe you permanent million-dollar salaries, just because we've humored you thusfar?

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posted by Ace at 05:43 PM

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