A Pooh Slinging Contest (Warning: Contains Bear Metaphors)

2 Apr

The final chapter of Cormac McCarthy’s brutal masterpiece, “Blood Meridian” contains a horrific scene in which a trained bear is forced to dance in some jerk-water town saloon. The bear, obviously frightened and showing signs of a life time of abuse, frantically moves back and forth to the tink-tonk-tink music of the piano, eager to please his master and the drunken, well-armed audience. Suddenly, a shot rings out and a bullet catches the bear in the chest. As the drunks laugh and cheer the shooter on, the bear, either ignoring or forgetting his instincts, dances faster. Panicked by the pain and confused by the loss of blood, the bear dances for survival; hoping against hope that obedience to his task might save his life. When the crowd has had enough, the gunman finishes the bear off with a kill-shot. And the party continues.

Is this not a prime example of the artist’s (entertainer’s) willingness to please an audience? The victim in the book is a bear; a dumb animal that cannot be compared to us humans, us artists who ponder for years the value of our existence and the contribution we wish to make to our respective fields. Yes, it’s true. We are not animals. We can retreat from humiliation. We can choose to create a beach-head and stand our ground and take losses for the greater victory. We can! We CAN! So why don’t we?

Let’s, for a moment, delve into the controversial issue of talent. Or to be more precise, the world of the truly talented. Yes, the untalented can be tutored to exhibit some of the skills of the talented, but while one can put peanut butter on a turd to improve the taste, it will remain a turd. The ones with talent within the world of art (or art-as-entertainment, seeing as I’m more suited to discuss that field, if any) are the ones most at risk of being exploited and forced into obedience by cruel masters who insist on pleasing an audience without ever challenging them. This indicates the master’s own disrespect for said audience and the greed and insecurity (and probable lack of talent and taste) that dwells within his/her dark, well funded heart.

There are three categories (according to me, untrained and opinionated as I am) within this world of the truly talented:

The Lucky Ones – Those who exhibit their talents in worthy pursuits and are rewarded handsomely for it.

The Unlucky Ones – Those immensely talented folks who are constantly at the mercy of the banal higher-ups and who are never rewarded, financially or creatively, for their passion and unaccepted brilliance.

The Rest: Those straddling the line between what we SHOULD be doing, and what we HAVE to do in order to, perhaps someday, do what we should be doing.  Compromise brings reward, they say. Who says that? The ones who need others to compromise, because they have the gun and you’re just a dancing bear.

Realistically speaking, we all have to do what we have to do in order improve our lot in life. It’s called “paying your dues.” But once we enter the arena we’ve been dreaming about, once we have our foot in the door, why do we keep dancing for the promised, but never delivered, salmon? “Don’t rock the boat,” they say. “Give ‘em what they want,” they say. (THEY, those motherless fucks!! Oh, I shake my fist on my very rarely seen blog. I am aware of the irony, thank you very much.) But what does that say about the master’s opinion of the audience? That they are dumb, uncultured morons who seek nothing new? Can the adventure of discovery be reserved only for the outwardly adventurous? There cannot be only two armies in the world of art-as-entertainment. It is not a battle between “What they want” and “What they don’t want.” A promise of something great/magical/new/revolutionary lies within no-man’s land. The great expanse between the two warring factions is populated by a hungry army waiting to destroy any advancing force that dares to tread on its sacred soil. Wouldn’t that be a battle worthy of Super-Sport style coverage?

Rage is not necessarily the solution, but it can be helpful. The bear in “Blood Meridian” ignored its instincts (his instincts being the immediate mauling and decapitation of any and all those around him) but those in this fragile, little world of art-as-entertainment should not. We needn’t act on it relentlessly, but a time will come when one has to decide whether one is a dancing bear ready to be murdered, or a mean motherfucking Papa Bear who will tear down the saloon and take a few ingrates with him.

2 Responses to “A Pooh Slinging Contest (Warning: Contains Bear Metaphors)”

  1. Anonymous April 2, 2011 at 18:44 #

    It is the same with everyone that has passion for their work in this world. Working, no sleep, no fun, all work… little appreciation and advancement to be and do who and what you know you are capable of. The man. Fuck that man. I’m the woman. Here me moan.

  2. Grace Newton April 3, 2011 at 21:03 #

    Oh Louis, you are so wise. You’re like a miniature Buddha, covered in hair.

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