I know that quoting Yoda isn’t going to help my whole “no really, I’m not this nerdy” thing, but it’s strangely apropos.
On Tuesday, Lainey posted this about the “You can do anything!” sketch from last weekend’s SNL, hosted by Daniel Radcliffe. Lainey noted the line, “I tried and therefore no one should criticize me,” which was my favorite line in that sketch, too. It perfectly sums up the attitude of the Cult of Special. That just showing up is enough. That participation is all that is required to succeed, never mind talent, originality, or working hard enough to deserve success in the first place. If you watched DanRad’s SNL episode you might have caught the musical performer, internet “star” Lana Del Rey. She is not particularly interesting to me so the furor surrounding her mediocre (at best) performance was largely uninteresting, until comedian Whitney Cummings weighed in her blog, saying, essentially, that Lana Del Rey tried and therefore, we should not criticize her.
I’m not here to discuss the artistic merit of Lana Del Rey. Or the comedic value of Whitney Cummings. Or even the irony of Cummings, who’s been run through the wringer since last fall for her self-titled sitcom, which is really, really bad, pleading that we stop making fun of/criticizing a performer who’s getting the business for being (to some) really, really bad. I’m here to talk about the Cult of Special and why trying isn’t enough.
Because trying ISN’T enough.
Cummings makes several salient points in her blog, mostly about how mean and petty women can be to other women, especially when they feel threatened for whatever reason, but she loses me when she says that performing is really hard you guys, like, it’s so hard that just attempting it is a great epic battle and that the mere act of showing up totally excuses whatever suckitude follows. Performing isn’t hard. Scary, sure, because you’re putting yourself out there to be judged and the reality is, you may be found wanting. And it can be intimidating, should you find someone you admire watching you do your thing. But F*CKING HARD, as Whitney says? No. You know what’s F*CKING HARD? Being a soldier. Or a firefighter. Or a cop, an emergency room nurse, a parent, a teacher—I can think of literally dozens of jobs harder than being a performer.
The second place where she loses me is when she says “let’s blame her managers for letting her go out there when she’s not really ready yet”. I get where Cummings is going with that, after all, it’s not like Lana Del Rey is wandering alone in the wilderness. She has handlers. But that’s exactly the kind of buck-passing that lets a little kid with medium-to-no talent grow up to be an adult determined to inflict whatever sh*tty thing they do on the rest of us. Because no one ever said, “Hey, you’re bad at this. Do something else now.” At some point, the person who is doing something they’re maybe not so good at has to be confronted with the reality that they’re maybe not so good at it. We simply have to be able to tell people, “Dude, you suck. Please stop.”
The conversation about Lana Del Rey shouldn’t be “she tried really hard, you guys” but “she needs to work on this some more and come back when she’s got a stronger act”. The key word there? WORK. Work takes dedication, time and effort. Work is not fun. Work is a commitment. Work is a promise that you’re going to earn whatever success comes your way. Work is long hours for little to no pay, toiling in obscurity while you hone your craft. And there’s no guarantee that work will make you rich and famous. Which is probably why everyone wants to celebrate Try. Try is easy. All the special snowflakes can try and congratulate each other on making the monumental effort to show up and be merely okay. As long as Try is all it takes, the Cult of Special will always reign supreme.
(Lainey: I texted Duana that night after watching Lana Del Rey - and what kind of fake name is that? - to tell her that I don’t think I’ll ever get her. Will I regret saying this?)