Thursday, May 25, 2017

"A Questionable Concept, Except At Disneyland"

Let’s polish off the “Disneyland Exception” first because I know, as busy people, you may want to hear about the “anomaly” and take off.  I, of course, have to stay here till the bitter end, but that’s not your problem.  Nor actually mine, come to think of it.  I do not have another doctor’s appointment till Tuesday.

One of my longtime favorite Disneyland attractions is Autopia, a ride that simulates driving a racecar around an (I think) electrified track.  The cars are two-seater arrangements, accommodating a driver and one passenger.  Who’d want to be a passenger when you could instead take the wheel as the driver?  No one, I imagine, who is permitted to be a driver. 

But, you see, there’s this line.

Somewhere before gaining access to Autopia, there is this vertical metal bar with an engraved ring around it.  The line, represented by the ring, determines whether you are tall enough drive at Autopia, or are consigned instead to the passenger seat.  This precaution is ostensibly for safety purposes, and also, I imagine, because, if you are not tall enough, your feet will not be able to reach the pedals.

Whatever the reason, if you stand with your back against that bar, and you “height in” above the line, you can drive and if you “fall short”, so to speak, you can’t.  Which I am sure is upsetting if you feel ready and able to drive but, due to the unwavering requirement you did not “measure up” to, they won’t let you.

Fortunately, unless you fall into the subcategory of people who are not going to grow, this disqualifying demarcation is not a permanent condition.  You get older, you shoot up, you’re above the line, you can drive at Autopia.  (As well as be able to get things down from top shelves, which people shorter than you will never tire of asking you to, because they need them, and possibly as payback for the unequal distribution of height.)

One might think then that, after the restrictive Autopia requirements, such designating distinctions are now behind you.  But I think about the business I was once heavily engaged in, and I realize that in show business, at least, they’re not.  (Autopia is, in fact, the outlier exception because you can naturally, in time, rise above them.)

When I was working – and I am unaware that anything has changed – you found this immutable categorization, making the same, albeit metaphorical, distinction

There was no secret about it; the matter was regularly mentioned out loud.  One heard writers, actors, directors and producers referred to as the “Above the Line” participants in a production, and everyone else – camera crew and support staff, from the prop people to the crewmember assigned to ensure the availability of Ritz Crackers on the Craft Services Table:

“Below the Line.”

Just like Autopia.  Only, unless you change jobs and become a writer, actor, director or producer, you can never grow out of it.  People remain “Above the Line” or “Below the Line” until they leave the business or die, whichever comes first.

Do these official categorizations make any significant difference to the participants?  

“Above” and “Below”? 

Are you kidding me? 

“ABOVE THE LINE” PARTICIPANT:  “Come on.  It’s nothing.”

“BELOW THE LINE” PARTICIPANT:  “Nothing?  Okay, then, let’s switch.”

I like to think everyone is proud of what they do and performs their jobs to the best of their abilities.  That’s all that matters, isn’t it?  Why then the hierarchicaling labelling? 

Acknowledging, unless you are being deliberately stubborn, that “above” is superior to “below” who then decides who legitimately belongs where?

“I’m guessing ‘Above.’”

Okay, but on what basis?  Why are some jobs generically “above” other jobs?  And what happens in the ambiguous “Gray Areas”?

“Director of Photography.”

“Above the Line.”

“I don’t know.  Aren’t they just glorified cameramen?”

Who cares? 

And, more importantly, why are they doing this?

There is already a recognizable distinction between the two groups, and that’s money, the “Below the Line” participants generally compensated at an hourly basis, the “Above the Liners” making as much as their agents can squeeze out of the producers.

Isn’t that enough? 

What is the purpose in pouring it on?  I can imagine two L.A. school kids, “hanging” in the playground at recess.

“What does you Daddy do?”

“He’s a ‘Boom Operator’.”

“Ooh, ‘Below the Line.’  See ya.”

Of course, that would never realistically happen because one of those kid would be in private school.  No points for guessing which one.

I may be wrong – as my personal experience is limited – but I don’t think it’s just show business where such unequal classifications are an indelible part of the deal.  I think “Above the Line” and “Below the Line” is everywhere, affecting every thing, all the way to the top.

“We may be ‘Below the Line’ in education.  But we’re smart enough to elect a president.”

No doubt about it, “Below the Liners” are angry.

You know why?

Because somebody labeled them “Below the Line.”

I understand it for Autopia.

Everywhere else?

You can do it.

But there are definitely going to be consequences.

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