Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Creative Differences

Something that's long bothered me is the concept of creative differences. 

You hear about it all the time in the entertainment business, between the people making the movie, the TV, the music we love.  But that's not the one I'm going to talk about.  No, what concerns me today is the creative differences of the audience.

Not in the sense of having different tastes, mind you.  When something is very popular, you find out how quickly someone will put their individual preferences aside.  Oh, sure, there are the people who hate the very popular things, because some people thrive on being contrarian.

No, creative differences from the audience in that some people thrive on inserting themselves into the creative process, question the decisions that were (or are being) made.

This concerns me because there's a difference between questioning creative choices and recognizing that the creators in question just aren't very good.  And for whatever reason, more often than not, we seem to demonize those who make different creative choices rather than those who just aren't very good.

In fact, more often than not we actually encourage people who aren't very good, because they reflect our own insecurities, our need to believe in ourselves.  Which is the same reason we feel free to question creative choices, rather than allow ourselves to think about them.

Critical thought is probably the hardest thing to teach.  In school we're constantly taught from books that have already been deemed classics, and teachers painstakingly walk through creative choices as if they are inherently impeccable.  You may remember how you yourself reacted to these classics. 

It would probably be more helpful to start with a book that the whole class, teacher included, has to decide on together.  It would be the first model for what we would hopefully be doing for a lifetime.  Because I think at the moment we're sadly deficient.  We don't know how, we don't try, and we assume that because we have an opinion we're right and cannot be contradicted, just so long as it fits whatever agenda we're peddling.

Far too often we identify the choir first and then begin preaching to it.  But it's not the audience that matters.  You don't need affirmation.  What you need is integrity.  It's not integrity that leads you to tearing apart creative choices. 

When something fails people all of a sudden find it easy to analyze what went wrong.  When something succeeds it's just assumed that everything went right.  Failure is considered an amalgam of terrible choices.  Success and failure are not the arbiters of imagination.  If one element succeeds spectacularly, it can lift otherwise mediocre material.  It equally bothers me when someone says one element did succeed but otherwise couldn't rescue everything around it, because that's the essence of most successes.  People rally around elements far more often than they do for complete mastery.

Because, again, because of the intimidation factor.  To me, it's ridiculous.  I hate the idea of feeling comfortable with mediocrity, especially the kind that has few if any redeeming qualities.  I've been guilty of this in the past.  I know what it's like to want to say something's good just because it's the easy way out, so I conform to the general consensus.

It's an impossible order.  No matter what I write here, you will continue to think the way you always thought.  The thought process is the hardest thing anyone could ever hope to change about themselves.  A lot of the other traits that carry us through life are about impulses that can be rechanneled, whether we're aware of how they work or otherwise, or letting something be nourished that was previously neglected.  But thought is exactly as it developed, sometimes completely out of our control, from early on in our lives.

It's helpful, however, to at least begin to acknowledge failings.  And to try and curb, perhaps, impulses that are not in our best interests.  You think for yourself, but it's useful to remember how your thoughts influence others. 

Anyway, next time you react to a TV show or a movie, try and think about the creative choices as something you don't need to question.  Think about those choices.  They aren't reflections of your own choices.  We tend to gravitate to things that reflect the way we think.  Underlying poor quality shouldn't be among those reflections.  Rather, the things that challenge us, inspire us...

1 comment:

  1. It would have been helpful if you had chosen some specific examples; I'm not really sure what you're talking about. Of course in anything collaborative you get choices made that are not strictly creative. Watching the latest season of Project Greenlight on HBO there were a lot of times where the writer/director wanted to do something but had to make a creative compromise because his "vision" simply wasn't in the budget. When a writer has to work with an editor and publisher there are changes that are dictated which may or not be for the better.


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