Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mission Statement

There comes a point in life when you realize you have a path, a calling, a personality that you can no longer avoid. When I was a kid, I loved cowboys in white hats, good-guys that stood for something, super heroes, anybody who did-the-right-thing.

Hard as I tried to learn to smoke, steal cars, binge drink or be in a gang, I wasn't any good at any of them. I did play in a metal band for a while, but everytime we went to buy new leathers, they picked black -- and I liked deerskin better.

I lost all my prettiest girlfriends to "bad boys" who broke their hearts or worse. I always paid my debts, treated people with respect and never went looking for a fight.

But it seemed the fight kept looking for me.

I began working professionally as an actor, wrote a film I starred in, found the writing more rewarding and soon began producing the material I wrote.

Meanwhile, the bad guys grew bigger and meaner. They played rougher than they had when I was a kid and made larger numbers of innocent people suffer for their causes and their shortcomings. They always wanted me to be a part of their club -- maybe to hide behind me -- perhaps to use my skills -- always offering the world in return for backing their cause.

And quietly implying that being decent was somehow being weak. Nice guys finish last.

I've been in film and television for more than 30 years now. And I don't confuse drama, horror or comedy that explores our darker natures to be the work of the bad guys. I chose the name of this blog for another reason.

There once was a "Legion of Decency" -- faceless minions of the Catholic church that rated entertainment of all forms and branded the consumption of some as "mortal sins". I'm not Catholic, grew up on the Devil's music, adore a film that tackles a taboo or a comedian who skewers a sacred cow. But something Pope Pius XI said in justifying the Legion of Decency has always struck a chord with me... "Everyone knows bad movies are bad for the soul."

The Pope meant that differently than the way I read it. But as we all know, Popes are infallible and he was right...Bad movies are very bad for the soul, the brain, the spirit, a first date and your bank balance.

But we have more bad movies now than we ever did, more bad TV shows, more music that doesn't speak to anyone who isn't in marketing. In the view of the Catholic church, these creations may well be the creations of demons released from hell to lower the standards. But I've worked with or for a lot of the guys who make that crap and they're not demon bad -- they're just bad.

One of my earliest heroes, Superman, formed a League of Justice that gathered together all my other super hero faves from Batman to Green Lantern to better fight the growing list of arch villains.

And so it seems I must now do the same.

I've watched the bad guys corrupt an industry that once delivered imagination, insight and inspiration into some kind of fratboy howler monkey brothel/casino wetdream, where worthless hours of programming make fortunes while offering no nutritional value in return.

I've watched artists and creative technicians abused in ways I never imagined possible just so the bad guys can make more bad stuff and those artists can maintain a precarious handhold in the world they've dedicated their lives to serving.

Oh, the good stuff is still there, and good people still do achieve their creative dreams. But they're becoming fewer in number and their work is harder to find as the bad guys increase in power and marginalize anything they can't control. In the end, most of the good stuff never finds an audience needy of the hope and satisfaction and rewards it could give.

There are a thousand sites in this blogosphere provided by creative souls in my industry who could make it so much better. I read your dreams, understand your frustrations and see you flail against forces unafraid to fight dirty, go into the corners with their elbows up, and tease the talented to death with promises you desperately want to believe but will never see kept.

You can't fight them alone. Rephrase that -- you can -- and you may well win. But your battle may also be so long and damaging that a victory in your small fight may come well after the war has been lost.

The last guy to die at the Little Big Horn probably killed a lot of Sitting Bull's Warriors. But he was still the last guy to die at the Little Big Horn.

So what I will offer you here is The Legion of Decency. The cavalry of a Western's final reel. Advice from Artists who have fought and continue to fight the good fight. Industry people who can offer insight and strategy and support for your creative battles.

And what I hope to offer the bad guys is the thing they most fear -- an adversary who isn't afraid of them.

To paraphrase one of my writing idols, "He's decent. Don't ever mistake that for weakness."

9 comments:

wcdixon said...

phew...the bar just got even higher.

Agnes said...

I've never been a huge fan of blogging. I used to think that this was a great way for 'lazy' writers such as myself to yet again find a new way...beyond laundry...beyond emptying the dishwasher...beyond scheduling dental appointments and subsequently having to cancel them since the deadline happens to fall on the same day...to procrastinate. But then a good friend writes this...and wow! Perhaps there is a purpose and a greater good. Perhaps together we can effect a change... Ride 'em cowboy!

Riddley Walker said...

Count me in.

As long as I don't have to wear spandex, that is...

Kelly J. Compeau said...

Sign me up for the Legion of Decency, Jim!

jimhenshaw said...

Wow, four comments in my first week! I used to do shows for audiences that weren't this big. Thanks for coming and "Welcome to the Legion" -- although that phrase has some unfortunate connotations if you're Canadian. I won't promise the posts will be frequent, but they'll always be interesting.

And Ridley -- anybody who quotes The Arthur Brown Experience in their blogs is probably all too comfortable in Spandex...

Riddley Walker said...

Curses!

My secret is out...

Caroline said...

I'm in!

Good Dog said...

Jim,

Oh, we need this now more than ever. And not just the Justice League, but the Justice League International!

Thanks again to Will for pointing us in your direction.

English Dave said...

Is there a badge?

Count me in. There is a huge difference between heated artistic debate and bullying.

Of course ultimately someone has to make the final decision, but they can only make that decision properly if they have listened to opposing views without taking them as some kind of challenge to their authority.

Some execs are writer friendly, many are decidedly not. Possibly because they don't fully understand the writing process or engage with the writing mentality.