You Probably Aren’t SpecialPosted: January 20, 2012
Since childhood, my generation has been told how special we are. How we all have unique talents and that we’re all perfect in our own way. Sarah calls it the “special little snowflake” methodology, or something like that. This, we’ve both concluded, is part of why so many of my generation — and a few of the preceding ones — feel so entitled. Kids — and adults — these days are under the impression that there are things in life they deserve, like brand new iPhones or eating out every night or the newest video game or whatever. They rack up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and shrug. They pay the interest and by the next shiny gadget, sinking further in debt. I know too many of my friends who have terrible credit card problems. And it’s awfully sickening that one of the worst things to plague North American society is spending too much money.
The fact is, though, that very few people are special. An insignificant proportion of the population is genuinely good at something. Most people, I think, are competent enough at their jobs, whether it’s in middle management or at the drive-thru window. Some people are slightly talented and go further; they might be management (again), or they might be musicians, comedians, performers, whatever. The problem is that, from a young age, we’re told we can achieve anything. And sure, you can, if you have enough money, inclination, time, interest, and talent, but very few people have it. The fact is that the majority of people on this planet will achieve next-to-nothing in their lifetimes: they’ll live, they’ll have some snot-nosed brats, and they’ll die. That’s that.
All this, I guess, is what pisses me off the most about the Lana Del Rey / Whitney Cummings saga that’s been playing out. For those of you who don’t watch SNL (let’s face it: most people), Lana Del Rey bombed. If you haven’t heard of her, she is a hipster from New York who put a few songs on Youtube that tons of people liked — I’ll admit that, while I don’t like the songs myself, she clearly has some talent (even if that talent is warbling mournfully into a microphone, out-of-rhythm about hipsterystuff).
When I say she bombed, I mean she bombed hard. The interwebs were aflame with hatred about her and her performance. Many people then felt she was being let off too easy. The consensus was that certain media sites were giving her a bit of a pass because, let’s face it, she’s new and young. Well, this continued for awhile; Brian Williams of NBC went as far as to send an e-mail to his buddies at Gawker, who then promptly published the thing (which resulted in a hilarious, mini-scandal which basically involved Williams swinging his dick around). He called it — as many others have — “one of the worst outings in SNL history”. Here’s the clip: be warned, it really is bad.
Shortly thereafter though, out of nowhere, like a superhero, in swung noted comedian superstar Whitney Cummings. Cummings, for those of you who don’t know, is the extremely talented star of the NBC show Whitney (Whitney you may remember became the whipping-boy after the non-cancellation of Community). She, like the hero that she is, wrote a blog post about how the internet community was ruining this young woman, how we were taking out our anger and aggression on someone who didn’t deserve it, and essentially how ladies can’t get ahead with men criticizing them.
Now, I’ll be honest: half of what I just wrote is a complete lie. Whitney Cummings is single-handedly one of the least funny human beings
current alive to have lived. She is Godawful. Her jokes consist of either banal observations, her claiming what a nerd she is, or gross-out humour. It’s just not that funny. Maybe she’s funny, I guess, if you’re ten or your favourite show is The Big Bang Theory, but I’m not. Anyway, Cummings big thing seems to be, performing is hard work ok guys!?
I have many random thoughts. First, everybody calm down. It’s a little troubling that when a young girl fails at something that we keep kicking her why she is down. I get very protective of girls, especially young performers, because they live a hard, emotionally challenging, often physically challenging life where you are constantly given reasons to be insecure and have panic attacks. I totally get the stuff about her not deserving to be there and I don’t mean to insult musicians in any way if that’s how they feel obviously, but this is an opportunity to show us how hard being a performer is so maybe they can all be cut some slack. Flack? I think we take our performers for granted. It’s super fucking hard to entertain people and it takes a lot of work.
I can’t really judge her performance. I am not qualified to do that since I’m very forgiving of performers because performing is FUCKING HARD. It takes a long time to get good, and even when you are good, you can be challenged by new venues and being televised, and cameras, and the uh…fear and terror of being slammed by critics and bloggers, plus if you are a woman you also get fashion criticism and if you’re a pretty woman you’re accused of having plastic surgery and if you’re not you’re “busted” and people blog about how they don’t want to fuck you…it’s not ideal. On top of that you have to deal with the self-hate and self-criticism that most performers and artists have. So even when things go great for artists and performers, it’s still hard. So when it goes bad, it’s just the worst vortex of misery. If she fell on her face, she was there, she felt it, and her having lived it is punishment enough. We don’t need to keep bashing her unless it makes us feel better about ourselves which….isn’t an ideal reason to hate someone.
I don’t think it’s entirely necessary to point out the irony in Cummings talks about being “good” at performing when she is clearly not, so I really won’t. What I will do, though, is point out this: when you perform, whether it’s in front of five people or five million, you are setting yourself up to be judged. Being judged is one of the only reasons to perform. If you enjoy performing but aren’t good at it, you shouldn’t be performing. It’s like the opening episodes of American Idol: those shitty performers are on there purely for our amusement. They just aren’t good. They like performing, but that’s not enough. But I’ve yet to see someone, earnestly, come to the defense of those clowns with a good reason beyond Cummings’s claim of “performing is hard”. There are lots of things that are hard, and when you fuck up, you fuck up. That’s it. Trying
isn’t always is never good enough. It’s like when Luke is bitching during The Empire Strikes Back to Yoda about how tough life is: do or do not, there is no try.
But what aggravates me the most about her entire post begins in the first paragraph: Cummings’s defense of her because she’s a young woman. First of all, she’s like what, twenty-five? That’s hardly young. In fact, it isn’t. Secondly, Cummings’s patronizing defense of Del Rey because of her gender (and their shared gender, obviously), makes me choke. Is Cummings saying we should give Del Rey a break because she is a lady? Really? I get that the performing industry still remains a bit of an old boy’s club (hell, most of the world is), but come on — let’s be real and drop the bullshit sexism.
I am intrigued by Lana Del Rey. She seems very odd and self-made and scrappy which I like. Her style is bonkers. She always looks so fresh and original. I think she’s from either Brooklyn or the future. Her stylist must be Baz Luhrmann. Her nails are fresh for life. Zoe Lister Jones showed me the video games video a long time ago and we were very smitten with her face and mystery and the cool video for it and legitimately good lyrics and song. We were for sure annoyed by how pretty she was but we checked that nasty competitive shit right away because the song was cool. She earned for us to not objectify her and get petty. Because something about this girl brings out the petty in us. Her quick rise? Her pretty face? Something is pissing people off about this girl and I just think it’s an opportunity for us to learn from ourselves and grow. (LOOK AT HOW MUCH OF AN ADULT I AM NOW!)
I just watched the SNL performance and I think her rhythms are weird an odd and bizarre. She seemed nervous obviously. She moves in a very drunk-at-a-wedding-and-gonna-regret-it-in-the-morning-type way which is all I really need to be entertained. I’m not saying support bad music or that she deserved to be there or anything-not my call-I’m just saying lets make the punishment at least fit the crime. Let’s not blame her, let’s blame her managers for not making her wait until they knew she would not get nervous or kick it out of the park or not do whatever happened.
I’ll just offer a cursory glance at this crap above me here: I don’t find Del Rey particularly attractive or interesting, so whatever. I don’t think I am — or that most other people are, for that matter — hating on Del Rey because she’s pretty. I think it’s slightly ridiculous to claim that pretty girls have trouble getting ahead, and that’s what Cummings is suggesting.
The second paragraph is hilarious, because Cummings is saying we should take it easy on Del Rey because she’s a pretty young girl, but we should grill the shit out of her manager for booking the performance. First of all, if you’re a rising young star and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE phones your manager and says, “hey, we have an open spot, does Lana want to perform?”, what is the manager going to say? “No, call back in like a few years when she’s a bit better, ok?”. No, of course not, don’t be a moron.
But it’s this attitude — Cummings’s attitude — of passing the buck and blaming other people for our own fuck-ups which is bugging me. My generation is an entitled bunch of sissies who don’t like working hard and love passing the blame, and Cummings’s post typifies that. Everyone acts like they deserve something, like the world itself owes them something.
Here’s the rub: no one deserves anything. No one pops out of the womb deserving this or that. You need to earn your way in the world: when someone hands you the gig of a lifetime and you fuck it up, you fuck it up, that’s it. Accept it and move on, that’s all you can do. Maybe things will work out, maybe they won’t, whatever. The fact is that very few people on this planet are special, very few are unique, very few are special little snowflakes.
Coddling kids (and performers, by the looks of it) by telling them they can achieve anything is a bold(/bald)-faced lie and, in the long run, doesn’t do much.