I used to be an American Idol devotee. As far as talent competitions go I used to think it actually had a mix of validity and entertainment value. (rightly or wrong, that’s just my personal experience). Now, I’m out by the Hollywood round and I feel there is less than zero validity to the show. The entertainment, while still there, seems to veer toward the mean variety. I know, I know, those on the show sign their life away, and indeed may know (actually by now in reality TV land they should know) what they signed up for. But still, it sometimes makes me queasy.
For example, what has really struck me this season is the number of crying idiots complaining that Idol is their “last shot.”
What does that mean exactly? “My last shot.”
Last shot…. for what? To be on TV To be famous? To make it? I hope to hell it’s not “my last shot to make music” because that’s ridiculous. If you want to make music, make music. Do it in your garage, do it on the weekends, just do it. Sit down at the piano, grab a guitar and there you are. Music is made. Same goes for anything artistic – if you want to write, then pick up a pen. If you want dance take classes, put some music on and go.
Oh, are we talking about making a living? OK let’s do that. You can make a living with your art without being on TV It’s not a fancy cars and swimming pools living. It’s not mansion living. But it’s a living. Maybe it’s a ramen noodle living but if the bills are getting paid then it qualifies.
Or is it….”My last shot to be famous.” Well, that’s not true either. Because the notion of fifteen minutes of fame is within everyone’s reach now. The tentacles of fame search high and low, in all corners. YouTube is the second biggest search engine after Google. And if you really want to be famous, there’s certainly a precedence of steps for anyone to follow. They’re not nice steps, they don’t often focus on the craft of making music, or movies or what have you. (and yes, of course sometimes they do) But there are many of gross and ugly things you can to do be famous.
And if the goal is to be famous with your art, be it music or movies or what have you – think about that statement. Is that what you really want? Fame can certainly grow out of art, but to put the two together at the beginning of the process, like they’re a team, doesn’t make much sense. It seems to me that it would lead to compromise at some point. The Fame monster will eat the art at some point.
Still I am not satisfied. I still want to know. What does “this is my last shot” plea really mean? If a TV show is your “last shot” does that mean you’re giving up? That’s it? You’re going to stop trying? That’s how much your art means to you, that you’re willing to let it go?
I didn’t have a house, a car, anything of material value till I was thirty-five years old. That’s how long it took for me to fully make a living with my art. I temped for nine years, writing on my lunch hour, writing to and from work, whenever there was a spare moment. There was no last shot for me. Ever. Now, certainly I didn’t stay on the same path for fifteen years. I figured out that if I was going to have that living in the arts things were going to have to change.
But that’s what you do. If the path you’re on isn’t working you have to figure out how to change the path and still keep with your art. It’s tricky but completely doable. If one of your changes is to go on a TV show, all right go do it. God speed. But then if it doesn’t work, what’s next? There has to be a next. I am in despair over a lack of next.
I guess that’s what it comes down to – it rankles me to no end this idea of the “last shot.” That after this, there is nothing. A void. A vacuum. A black hole. Darkness. Oblivion.