Riff Raff: Thanking the academy …

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 389 views 

(Portions of this essay were first posted on Facebook. Apologies to Facebook friends for the partial plagiarism of myself.)

It doesn’t take long. When the awards shows – Oscars, Grammy’s, Tony Awards, etc. – are televised the haters hit the social media feeds. Those whose religion and/or politics can’t afford alternative views make sure we all know how out of touch is Hollywood. And Broadway.

Maybe so.

But my family likes to celebrate creativity. We work to look past the politics; seek to absorb the music and the dancing and the movies and the writing and the talent of folks who use various mediums to shine a light on the world around us.

For it has been the creative minds who brought all of us progress and inspiration and challenged us to think beyond our realities. Consider Copernicus, Shakespeare, Einstein, Madame Curie, Ms. Anthony, Ms. Stanton, Salk, Jobs, Rodgers, Hammerstein, Ford, Fonda, the Carter family, Cash, Sinatra, Coppola, Prince, Lin-Manuel, and so on and so forth.

To be sure, the creative folks are different and odd and sometimes unsettling. Remember when Elvis’ hips were banned from television because seeing them gyrate would most assuredly convert millions of teenagers into mindless zombies seeking animalistic orgies? Lennon’s “Imagine” in some circles was banned because it would turn listeners into communists or atheists. You know, because, “Jesus Loves the Little Children” has without exception taught us to love and treat all children equally, even if they are red or brown or black or yellow.

At the Tilley house, we watch as many awards shows as we can. We realize some of the nominees and winners are different and disconnected from our world here in Arkansas. But the parents of two wide-eyed daughters wanted them to be aware of other boundaries, to know the views and eccentricities and even the silliness of those engaged in creative pursuits that not only inform our pop culture, but also shed some light on where we’ve been and where we are going.

To wit, they learned from Lin-Manuel Miranda an entirely different narrative – and accurate in the broad strokes – about the founding of this country. “Hamilton” presented their young minds a healthy counter to the sanitized, white, Judeo-Christian history found in most textbooks.

An unintended but welcomed side-effect of exposing young minds to the aforementioned eccentric, silly and odd, has been to watch two young humans mature early with respect to appreciating the differences of others rather than judging differences. In other words, awareness of differences resulted in expanded knowledge rather than barriers to understanding.

There are some who would prefer the world of entertainment wholly avoid politics; to be a venue in which we may escape the democracy-destroying nature of divide-and-conquer politics. A poor boy from Dyess, Ark., had a thought on that.

“Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day
And tell the world that everything’s okay
But I’ll try to carry a little darkness on my back
Until things are brighter, I’m the Man in Black.”

We as a society have rarely moved forward when comfortable; contemporary thought is fleeting and fortunately so. Imagine a world in which we refused to accept the rights of individuals beyond the self-proclaimed divinity of a monarch.

The freedom of creativity is considerably more important to me as a parent than the fear that a few acceptance speeches might somehow pollute our views of what allegedly is good for love of a god and country.