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CULTURE RANT

by Dina Gachman

Culture Rant

April 15, 2001

SELLING OUT

Three in the morning, drunk, giddy, finding myself in one of those meandering, deep, stupid, passionate debates that remind you of what conversation, at its best, should feel like. The topic was selling out - more specifically, the topic hinged on whether Moby, with his American Express commercials and ads in Times Square, was a sellout. For some reason this topic's been following me around lately, popping up in conversations, occupying my thoughts. Maybe it's because of my own twinges of guilt when it hits me that I'm working for a dot-com. But a girl's got to make a living right? Pay the rent, the bills, live life. So this late night/early morning conversation got intense. When I was in high school, I'd stop listening to a band if I thought they'd sold out. I even shunned Nirvana for a short while, not realizing that it was the media's fault, and not the four guys that played the music, that they appeared like Nike ads all over the place. I think that's too easy now. Too easy for me to sit and judge these people that I've never met and have no clue about except what the media tells me by plastering their faces all over magazines and vodka ads. And it is slightly depressing when I hear Janis Joplin's voice selling cars, but that's obviously not her decision, right? Maybe that 70s character actor that I scoff at when they show up on an infomercial for who-knows-what has some medical bills or kids to feed or found themselves in a crazy gambling debt. Maybe Nicholas Cage was never really cool in the first place, and he just got typecast as the quirky nut, when really it's been testosterone blockbusters he's yearned for all along. Maybe Courtney Love's the sweetest most genuine woman on the planet (a huge stretch, but who knows). I mean, Radiohead, as a band, supposedly hate the mass media material culture rock star thing, yet they do cover stories for mainstream magazines. Am I going to sit and hate them all of the sudden because of that? And what's the difference between that and say Nicholas Cage moving swiftly from eating cockroaches and Leaving Las Vegas to an action hero mumbling bad one-liners and blowing shit up? Well, a lot, really.

The point is, it's so simple and lame, in my opinion, to label these people as sellouts as I sit here living my life, watching them on their peak of glamour, fame, success, artistry, whatever. We expect the rich and famous to be our heroes, to be superhuman and hold up all the integrity and guts that we as fans or admirers need and expect from them. And it's legit, expecting an artist to stay true. There are still the Tom Waits's, the Leonard Coen's, the PJ Harveys, Bukowskis and Henry Millers in the world. Or so it seems. Henry Miller certainly wasn't a sellout, but he wasn't the greatest person in the world eitherů or so I've read. Who knows? It's easy not to sell out to the mainstream when you have no qualms about borrowing/leeching money off of every friend you have like Miller did. He created patrons for himself - a luxury most people don't have the guts or selfishness to do.

It worries me that my opinion's changing about all this because I'm getting older, instead of banning Nirvana like I once did. But isn't that self-righteous behavior anyway, judging the art itself on the behavior of the artist? To uphold that standard I'd probably have to stop reading everything from Euripides to Miller, stop admiring Picasso or Fellini based on their view of women.

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