Sometimes I think William Goldman’s “Nobody knows anything” – concerning the movie business in the context of guaranteeing a hit – should be expanded to everything. To wit,
Nobody knows anything about anything.
By which I mean has an accurate understanding of what they specifically are talking about.
A recent personal example (where it turns out I didn’t):
I spoke yesterday – not out loud; in words, in this venue – about the difference between painters and television writers, suggesting that painters follow their creative Muse wherever it takes them, while television writers adhere only to Muses attuned to the commercial marketplace. (Not to be confused with agents, though they frequently are.)
I know. Painting a picture costs considerably less than producing a television show. So it’s immediately different that way. Still, deep down, “Creatives” ache to do what they passionately want to do. It’s just that, with these two examples, one artiste invariably caves before the other. I shall leave it to you to determine which one.
That was the dichotomy in my head, writing yesterday’s post. Painters display a steadfast integrity, while television writers have integrity only “up to a point.” Which is akin to rescuing a drowning person but giving up when you get tired.
“I held on for quite a while, but you know. You have to be sensible about these things.”
Not a perfect analogy. Barring the feeling in both that they should probably have done more.
As it turned out, last night, an actual artist came over to dinner.
Ruth is a longtime friend of Dr. M’s, a recognized artist, a college professor, and a former Dean of USC’S Roski School of Art and Design.
Ruth knows her bananas about art.
I told her what I was writing about, contrasting the shining purity of the painter against the sell-out venality of the television writer.
Ruth said I wasn’t exactly correct. (About painters, mentioning nothing about my characterization of television writers.)
In reality, painters are all over the map. Some of them teach, some stick assiduously to “what sells”, while still others do the patented “One for them; one for me”, meaning if what’s in vogue is “daisies in the field”, they’ll paint daisies, following their Muse in their spare time.
The image I offered, Ruth informed me, though it exists, is more a romantic stereotype.
The rebellious “Struggling Artist.”
Exploited by writers, these portrayals of a frenzied fringe fire the audience’s imagination, leaving us thinking, “That’s an artist!” when, from an encompassing survey perspective, it’s not.
Ruth’s illuminating report was a valuable eye opener, although a personal letdown. For some reason, I enjoy imagining courageous artistes proceeding “The Right Way” while I disreputably “go for the bucks.” (Further investigation of this self-flagellating phenomenon another time. Or possible never.)
What matters today is this question:
“How much of what we know is right, and how much is slanted stereotype?”
Imagine any group you can think of. What do we know about them? (If it is, in fact, possible ever evaluate a “group.”) The stuff we know, is that actually them? Or a glamorized glimpse we erroneously imagine’s the whole thing?
While we’re at it, where do these misleading fragments of reality come from?
Trusted friends and relations? Okay. But where did they get them from? The entertainment and news media? (Who are trying to sell tickets?) Professional experts? (With hidden agendas were are never informed about?)
All I know, is, without an artist’s clarifying corrective, I’d have clung to a popular mistake.
How many more of them, I wonder, do I have in me?
And, facing the nitty and the gritty,
Why do I think I know anything at all?