Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Art and Cheese

It is not a secret that many of the things that I love with a love from my deepest heart are kind of cheesy. Slightly hokey. Perhaps not to be taken totally seriously.

Let me enumerate with some examples, some of my very very favorite things in the world:
-Also, dungeons.
-The combination thereof.
-Bellydance. (I understand that many of you may not find it cheesy, but I think it's hard to argue that it doesn't at least have the potential to be cheesy.)
-(some) Anime and manga and (some) American animation and comic books.
-80's pop music.
-Drag queens.
-Science fiction.
I could continue, but I think the point is clear. I love cheese.

Now let's be clear, while I love cheesy things, I don't love them because they are cheesy; I love them because I love them, regardless of their hokeyness. After all, I don't love all kinds of cheese. No-- I have the refined palate of someone who has been a cheese enthusiast for many years. Sub-par cheese is quite offensive to me.
While I love all of these things without taking them too seriously, I don't love them to be ironic. My love for them is genuine and pure-- perhaps purer than it might be if I did consider them to be Serious Business, since I can evaluate them frankly and look past their flaws. My adoration absolutely does not contain the taint of mockery. I think there's something a little cruel in being an ironic fan of something, to be honest. Doesn't that trivialize the sincere enjoyment of true fans?
After all, why should we judge each other-- or judge ourselves-- for what we like? Why should we feel we need to apologize for where we find relief from the drudgery of everyday life? I think we shouldn't. It makes me truly happy to recognize genuine interest in passion in other people, even if it's for things I can't really stand (such as football, Dave Matthews Band, or Naruto). I'd much rather be friends with someone who genuinely likes stuff I don't care for, even stuff I kind of hate, than someone who is bored with everything and pursues things only with an edge of irony, a detachment to protect their personal coolness quotient or whatever.

As much as I love cheese, sometimes it's hard to work exclusively in fields I know are cheesy.
As you might know, I am a bellydancer. I take my dance training and my role as a responsible, ethical member of the professional bellydance community seriously. I take my work seriously too, to an extent. I practice and I try to produce the most genuinely enjoyable performances that I can, performances that will engage bellydancers and the general public alike.
However, it's difficult for me to escape the fact that I get up on stage in nearly as much makeup as a drag queen wearing a revealing costume and perform in a style that represents a fantasy of an Orient that never exactly existed. In the end, it's kind of not serious. It might be emotionally affecting at times, but more often it's just fun, sexy, and cheesy entertainment.
There is nothing wrong with that, not until you start asking to be taken seriously. Here's the thing-- I don't really take myself seriously, but I sure as hell want other people to respect me for what I do.
How do I make that happen?
I'm also in the process of writing a novel. Well, to be more accurate, it's written, and I'm in the process of editing it a million times. This novel is about vampires. Because that's what the world needs-- another vampire book. What can I say? They say to write about what you love, and OMG I LOVE VAMPIRES. Can I help it that I don't really have any interest in writing serious literary fiction?
I need to take this endeavor seriously, because I want my book to be the best it can be, but I can't take it too seriously-- or I will step back from myself, forget my genuine love for the undead, and think Oh My God What Am I Doing, I Am Writing A Book About Vampires.
The book comes up in conversation from time to time. It usually sounds something like this:
"What have you been up to lately, Sara?"
"Well, I just finished writing the first draft of my first novel."
"Oh, wow! What's it about?"
"Well... you know... .... ... *coughhackvampires*."
And then I change the subject.
Once I finish working on it, I am going to need to try to con someone into publishing it for me. I am worried that my cheese-related shame will be an impediment. How can I sell something I'm embarrassed to even talk about?

I can only think of two solutions:
1. Convince myself and others that what I have produced is NOT cheesy (i.e., lie to myself and others for the sake of self-promotion), or
2. Convince myself and others that this stuff is cheesy, but also Art with a capital A and worthy of serious consideration.

Let's hope that #2 is possible, since I'm not a very good liar.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, dude! Making *enjoyable* cheese is totally art.