Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Scarlett, jazz, and pretzels

“There’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t like something.” My grandmother used to say that and it’s a good thing to keep in mind when you’re creating a work of art. I was reminded of that recently when I saw an exhibit of artifacts from the making of the movie, Gone With the Wind.
            I hadn’t realized that so many people opposed so many aspects of the famous film, which was based on Margaret Mitchell’s bestseller. There were letters there from the NAACP protesting the portrayal of African Americans. Ultimately, the filmmaker did consult with the head of that organization and compromised somewhat on the objections. There were also letters from the head of the KKK. I think even that hateful organization was assuaged by taking out a scene they found offensive to their creed.
            Although the movie was wildly popular and still is, no one thinks it was a balanced portrayal of how things should’ve been. It was not politically correct, may not have been accurate, and is probably not great art. But it endures.
            Wynton Marsalis, the great jazz trumpeter, had some insightful observations in an interview I saw the other day. He talked about the vagaries of being dedicated to any art form. I got the feeling he had first-hand knowledge as he described how fickle the public and critics can be, how difficult it is to make money and still maintain artistic integrity. His advice? Be resolute. You hear a lot of advice for artists—be persistent, be dedicated, be patient—but be resolute is probably the best advice I’ve heard. When no one else believes in you, you have to continue to believe in yourself and run that gauntlet between the people who like this and the people who hate that.
            This is a problem that confronts us when we do something creative. Portray what we think is true or what we all wish were true?
Ultimately, it’s for the artist to decide. Sometimes, the world wants you to bend yourself into a pretzel so it can toss you into the box with all the other pretzels. Don’t do it. Be resolute.
           My published novels, The Legend of Juan Miguel and The Passion of Juan Miguel are available on Amazon.com.

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