This blog originally started out as a message board response (discuss things here) to chewer Bucho, but soon turned into a long rant. I thought I might as well just publish it as a companion piece to the original blog.

Bucho said: “I was hoping you’d pick some examples to tear into though. Were you thinking of any kids in particular? Someone that rhymes with Smarsmashian or Smaris Smilton maybe?”

My response:

I’ve often bemoaned Paris Hilton for being the point in my life where I’ve seen American “culture” begin its decline, so yes. I think she’s the personification of everything wrong with modern America. (The only thing that would make her an even more powerful personification would be if she joined the Tea Party) The fame for fame’s sake celebrities are becoming ubiquitous. (And are seemingly all being made through the same process nowadays: Sex tape begins the attention, late-night escapades and court case to follow, US Weekly covers and then overexposure) But it is not only the fame for fame sake celebrities who are grating me, but actors, musicians and other artists who seem to think working their way up the ladder of success is below them.

Part of it is I’m sad to see a generation of actors pass completely. We’re getting to the point where there are very few stars of the golden age left. These stars had incredible versatility, because they had to have it. They sang, they danced, they acted. If they wanted to work in the business, they had to do it all. You had performers who had years of experience honing their talents in front of an audience, and it imbues their work with charm and understanding. They understand how to work a film audience even if said audience is not there in the studio during the shooting. But this type of work is long past. Vaudeville is dead, and the type of performers it spawned are gone, along with its work ethic. The way one “cuts their teeth today” is a different beast indeed. But I still maintain that the internet is no place to pay one’s dues.

I am going to school for acting. I’m surrounded by people who want the recognition that comes with being famous in this profession, but their work ethic is markedly different than what I suppose it would need to be if they were entering this business fifty years ago. I see film students, acting students, and musicians with great potential who piss it away by seeking fame instead of learning their craft. No joke – I am constantly surrounded by people who discuss with grave seriousness how they can create a viral sensation on Youtube. This will bring them exposure which will bring them fans which will bring them deals which will bring them fame. All that for very little work is what they expect. And they don’t have the talent to back it up yet. They just assume that because they CAN put something up, they SHOULD, and that fame will immediately come-a-calling. The problem is, as false as this expectation may be, the modern media doesn’t do much but enforce it. With the democratization of media comes the marginalization of the audience and vice-versa, and we are constantly being fed modern day Horatio Alger stories of no talent no ones who start with a twitter feed and end with a 6 picture deal. And THAT is viewed as the new way to pay your dues.

And I hate it.

It shows no respect for your craft, your art or its accompanying techniques. If you want to do this work, learn to DO it. That doesn’t mean you need to necessarily go to school for it, but don’t try to find the shortcut around actually learning your trade. We wouldn’t expect it from a doctor, a lawyer or a dentist, so why assume it’s ok for an artist to declare themselves arrived with no prior qualification besides the desire? Oh, wait, because it’s the American dream. But even the in olden days (of yore!) those who took the bus from Kansas to Hollywood or from Omaha to New York with nothing but a suitcase and a dream to end up succeeding and gaining fame, those people worked to have it. Debbie Reynolds danced until her shoes filled with blood, or so the story goes. Don’t expect anything less from yourself.  Showbusiness is a business after all, and business means work. I have so many friends who have made it to points labeled successful. Out of those friends, most all have worked hard to get there. The others who didn’t quickly stopped working. Why? Because they never realized it was actually work to do those things, and it’s exhausting.

If you want to be an artist with longevity, expect to work. Expect to come home with blood-filled shoes. Expect to have to cut your teeth and pay your dues one way or another. James Franco – did he pay his dues? Yeah. He cut his teeth every day on a soap opera. He learned his trade. Jimmy Cagney – did he pay his dues? Indeed he did. As the man said, the times are different, but then again, they ain’t. Learn your craft, fame will come. Or maybe it won’t. But at least you’ll be worth something.