So I was working on another blog post and was going to end this year’s blog journey with a more upbeat, possibly insightful (depending on your perspective) writing-related post, but then I saw this tweet tonight:
I’ve spent the last thirty minutes listening to the first half of Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” on repeat and trying to look at this rationally, but I’ve pretty much been feeling like this the whole time:
I’ve had a little time to calm down though, so here goes.
First, please follow the man who posted this tweet because it is the best. You sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.
Second, to Old Navy, shame on you. Way to take a beautiful life choice and try to make all those who don’t aspire to it, but actually live it, feel less than, to say nothing of the tens of thousands (if not more) of young people who might wish to do something artistic. The fundamentally misguided notion at the center of these images is the belief that you cannot do something great, or even worthwhile, unless you choose to be one of these other things. This is, of course, false to the nth degree, and a classic case of bullying, but thanks for trying–that is, unfortunately, the American way to some extent. Way to try and make money off of tearing others down in the name of capitalism. It’s not even tearing someone else down so you can feel better about yourself and what you do, because only a handful of people on the planet combined have been, or are, Presidents or astronauts, so neither profession is one a significant number of people engage in, and I’ll bet my life not a single person who buys these shirts falls into either category. No one is going to be wearing these shirts to make themselves feel better than an artist, so you’re doing this for no other reason than to make money.
Third, to any artists who are reading this–painters, photographers, sketch artists, musicians, writers of any ilk, etc.–if you aren’t already aware of it, this is just the way we are going to be treated by certain segments of the population. Ignorant, shallow, eyes-blinded individuals all over the world believe this; even worse, some people won’t even blink at this because they’ll think it’s clever. Don’t buy into this for a second, because what you do is every bit as valid as what anyone else does. Your work inspires people. It makes people feel something real. It stirs people’s hearts, souls and minds. It makes our world a better place. You have a chance to touch the world with your art form just as easily as the President has the power to lead the world, and an astronaut has the power to explore space beyond our world to see what else is out there. Your work is valuable even if it is not always obvious how much. Not just anyone can do what you do, so don’t for a second think that what you are doing isn’t important.
And finally, artists, strike the word “aspiring” from your vocabulary, or at least your frame of mind. You are a writer right now. You are a painter right now. You are a musician right now. You are a photographer right now. Right. Now. You may aspire to be better at your craft, and maybe you aren’t published, signed, contracted, etc., but you already are this thing you want to be! Keep at it, improve, and never give up, but don’t forget to remind yourself (as often as necessary) that you already are this thing you want to be! You’re letting your creative streak run wild, rather than thinking about it or just talking about maybe doing something artistic at some point.
You. Are. An. Artist. Be proud of this!
A final note to Old Navy. I will confess that many, many years ago you did something–once–with one of your often inane ads that actually didn’t make me want to throw my shoes at my television–you put Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am” on in the background. Excellent song. It’s ironic, though, that by producing t-shirts like these, you are stating that you do not feel like taking artists as they are, and that’s to your shame and discredit. But more than this, you have finally found a way to make me like your ridiculous ads by comparison because at least those were just vapid and generally inoffensive. These t-shirts are something far worse, however. Be ashamed, Old Navy. Be very ashamed.
A final note to artists everywhere: take yourselves the way you are, like the wise Ingrid says, and make sure to keep doing your thing, knowing that others who will take you the way you are are going to love the hell out of you for what you do.