Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Simpsons Go Indie!

I'm a bit of a Simpsons fan; have been since I was a kid when my parents told my brother and me the content was too "adult" and forbade us to watch it.  While I'm not a fanatic fan, I do like to catch up on Hulu every once in a while.  The latest Simpsons episode was titled The Book Job, which ended up being one of my favorite episodes to date.

{Warning: Spoiler Alert ahead}

The ep starts with Lisa and her family at a spoof event of Walking with Dinosaurs where she discovers her favorite young adult literature author.  However, this "author" confesses to Lisa that she's only the cover author; the books are really written by a machine of independent lit students and a team of publishing execs who do market research to find out what will sell, then churn out the sequels in droves.  Bart and Homer catch wind of the idea, deciding to write and market a YA novel Ocean's Eleven style, with a look alike Andy Garcia as the publishing executive.

When Lisa discovers Homer and Bart are doing it for the money (to the tune of a cool million) and not the love of the craft, she challenges that she, too, will write a novel that children like her will adore.  While Bart and Homer's team churn out a creative masterpiece in about a month, Lisa finds herself unable to get past the written words "Chapter 1".

Finally, the book is ready to be published, only to find that the publisher has changed the entire integrity of their book and all the hard work they've put into it.  Both startled and crushed by this, the crew endeavors to undergo a second mission: to break into the publishing house and make sure their original work goes to print.

What I found so endearing about this episode was the twist, when Bart and Homer's creative crew discover that the integrity of their written work is more important to them than the original gain of money.  How true that is for all independent artists, of any type!  Very few authors, maybe an estimate of 3-5%, are blockbuster, New York Times Best-selling writers, and actually make their living on writing alone.  The rest of us do it simply for the love we have of words and storytelling.  Only a small percentage of the American population will ever even read what we write, and so the gratification that comes with completing a masterpiece for us 95-percenters is almost entirely personal--for the joy and satisfaction it gives us to do so.

Retaining aesthetic integrity is important to any artist that respects their craft, and, as The Simpsons episode so brilliantly showed, that integrity is always rewarded.  As cliche as it sounds, staying true to yourself and your work means the money will come, even if only eventually.  Perhaps I'm living in a fairy tale, but dreams do come true, especially if you believe in what you're doing.  If you love it, others are bound to love it too, even if motivated only by your own enthusiasm.

While this episode showed the horrors of publishing, it also showed what's brilliant about embracing a craft as well, and the gratification that comes from completing something you know inside is great.  There's no self-esteem booster like knowing a completed project is as good, or better, than what you set out to make it.  And sharing it, in its original form, with others is a pretty great feeling, too.

Bearing that in mind, I can't wait for May 1st, so I can share my masterpiece with all of you.  Kudos to the writers of this Simpsons episode, all of whom probably have endured many of the same frustrations they depict :-)  Enjoy!

(If you can't view this video, click here.)


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