Friday, December 10, 2010

Spidey and the Haters

I just bought a ticket to see Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, and I feel compelled to contribute via the Youngblog regarding the bizarre, swirling cloud of public speculation, schadenfreude, and calamity that surrounded the show even long before anybody had seen anything. At this point the show is still in previews, so technically even now nobody has really seen anything. And yet people delight in hating on it, even before they've seen it, which says to me that they aren't hating on the show, they are hating on the artists' attempt to make it.

Basically, this is what I want to say.

I have no patience for the haters.

None. I just don’t. Especially the haters who are members of the theater community. Look, why are you gonna shit on fellow artists who have taken on a massive challenge in the hopes of achieving something magical? Are you jealous? Are you jaded? Or do you straight up have an astonishingly tiny mind?

It is disheartening that so many people are rooting for these artists to fail. It’s hard enough. Failure is the looming specter that haunts every artist, from the moment we dress up in whatever uniform we’ve been assigned and pretend to care about coffee, office management, or mail-sorting, to the moment we entreat all our friends on Facebook to please come to our summer Fringe show in a non-air conditioned 6th story walkup tenement black-box theater, to the moment our mothers call to politely remind us that the uterus is not a canned good, that a twin bed is not cute after college, and that we do not contribute to society in any measurable way. Okay, so maybe Julie isn’t doing tenement black-box shows anymore, but still, compared to other professions, the deck is stacked, my friends. Do we also need our fellow artists screaming for our blood?

Some people say that what bothers them is the amount of money being “wasted” on this project. First of all, let’s remember something. This is America, where the auto industry gets public money and the arts do not. If rich people want to make an investment in theater, let them! For God’s sake, let them! That’s awesome! Others rail against the show’s high ticket prices, which render this and most other Broadway shows inaccessible to average people. Yeah, that definitely sucks, but that’s what happens when you both try to pay artists living wages and try to do it with no public funding.

I chafe at this trend of blaming artists for working within the system to create their work. If the issue is ticket prices, blame our government and our voters for not supporting the arts. And if the issue is the Hollywood-fueled superhero worship, blame the audience for liking what they like. Don’t blame the artists for making the show that people want to see, and for attempting to do cartwheels down the tightrope between commerce and art that we all must navigate.

All this is not to say that smaller, weirder, cheaper theater isn’t worthwhile. I love it. I make it. I pay to see it. But there are some things that can be accomplished with a massive budget that cannot be accomplished without it. This is fact. Why should we shackle the people who have somehow wrangled access to those resources? Why do we want more limits to the variety of what we as a community can accomplish?

I’ve been rooting for Spiderman for years now, ever since I passed by the loading dock area for the theater while the doors were open and saw a dark jungle of cables and rigging dangling from the grid. I stopped and gaped. I was excited. I wanted to witness this. I was willing to save up the money and spend it on an event, one that would take its place in the litany of experiences that add up to my life on this planet. This is the point, people! This is why we do this!!

So yeah. Don’t hate on our own. Because whether you think it's good or not is completely irrelevent to whether or not they should try.


Meghan Drrns said...

Yay I agree with this! Other people failing does not make our lives better, the end.

Eric said...

So here's my dilemma: Bono and the Edge are songwriters with a extensive track record of work that I don't particularly enjoy who have never written a musical before. I like lots of what Julie Taymor has done, but I'm also a little to a lot sick of Spiderman at this point. While I don't in any way begrudge their desire and ability to make what they're making, and don't in any way care whether it fails or succeeds, I'm just not that interested in it. Does that make me a hater? A be-skepticaler? As a consumer of art who also occasionally makes art, is there a non-dickish way to express that I believe it is likely to be bad, or at the very least, that I'm likely to not enjoy it when it comes up in conversation? This made me second-guess all the pre-hating I've done, and I'm genuinely curious whether or not I can go on pre-hating responsibly.

Anna said...

I think there's a big difference between someone's lack of interest in a project and someone's need to publicly bash a creative endeavor during the rocky development phase and root for its failure. Be-skept away.

Anonymous said...

Defending this show is like a boutique defending Wal-Mart.

plink said...

Actually, I think Wal-Mart employs at least one playwright. I'm not sure the same is true of Spider-Man...

I kid, I kid. Bashing a play is not an achievement and people should remember that. Ambition is good. Confidence is good. Increasing the scope of a theatrical experience is good. Failing is not the worst thing in the world for a theatre artist, but being afraid to realize your vision because of what others might say is.

I saw Turn Off The Dark and I'm glad I did. I hope others get to see it too.