If only it weren’t so scary

My kid has rolling obsessions with movies. There’s a repertoire of about a dozen films that she cycles through, focusing on two or so at a time and bouncing back and forth between them for weeks before we introduce her to something new, after which the cycle begins again.

The current pair are The Nightmare before Christmas and Monsters University. Sidebar: both are fantastic films with great scores, and they should be known and appreciated by everyone. Sidebar, sidebar: I’m convinced that we’re raising our daughter right.

In Monsters, there’s a scene where the lead takes his rag-tag group of miscreants on a field trip for inspiration. They cut through a fence and gain access to the factory of Monsters Inc. – the “big leagues,” as he describes it. As they peer through the windows of the factory, observing living legends of their field do their work, he asks the group if they can identify a single common characteristic among the professionals whose ranks they all seek to join. No one can. He tells the group – who has repeatedly been told that they lack the qualities needed to be successful – that there are no magic prerequisites, that these professionals bring their own unique strengths to do their best job.

This, of course, is a bit of a Disney-fied reduction, but it made me think – as I observed this film for the 86,000th time – of more relevant professional assumptions.

A variation of the “Starving Artist” trope is that the Artist is always “on,” meaning that who they are “on stage” is who they are in real life, and vice versa.  The show never ends. This is perpetuated from the top down and reinforced by the need in the artistic economy to be noticed.

One must stay in the game to win it (and, incidentally, to effect change from within). It can be an exhausting cycle and a delicate balancing act.  I’ve found, however, that while the experience of Art (capital A) is immense and overwhelming, the practice of art (lowercase a) is a normal exercise rooted in technique and discipline. The surface drama, while occasionally useful in advancing one’s own efforts, is superficial.

There are no magic prerequisites; all the monsters have their strengths.


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