Showgirls the Musical probably shouldn’t work as well as it does – crucial to Showgirls’ charm is its obliviousness. In an essay in its photo book companion that’s as misguided as the film itself, Showgirls: Portrait of a Film, Verhoven gushes, “I got to direct an MGM musical!” Slate writer and Barneys creative-ambassador-at-large Simon Doonan is an opening-weekender like myself who is well connected enough to have discussed the film with its stars Elizabeth Berkley and Kyle MacLachlan. “The fascinating thing is that they all concur that while they were making the movie, they thought they were just making a really dramatic film about Vegas,” he told me last weekend over the phone, cackling. “Which, of course, they were. They said they were just showing up for work that day and throwing themselves into it. They were unaware that they were making a camp classic. They had no sense of it at all. I guess that’s what makes it so genuinely, ferociously camp is that it was done for real. It’s haute couture camp.”
You should obviously go read Rich Juzwiak on the Showgirls musical.
Barthel lauds the “demos, experiments, collaborative public works, jokes, notes, reading lists, sketches, appreciations, outbursts of pique” that are “absolutely vital to continuing the business of creation.” But the degree that these are all affixed to a personal brand when serially broadcast on social media depletes their vitality. If PJ Harvey released the demos as she made them to a Myspace page, would there ever have been a finished Rid of Me? Would the end product merely have been PJ Harvey, as the fecund musician?
Rob Horning wrote an excellent response to my PJ Harvey piece, which you should read. My quibble with his point here would be that those things I list, which were not publicly-facing pre-internet (or at least less publicly-facing) were still in many ways about “personal brand.” Novelists write letters to other novelists as a way of developing their ideas and social relationships, sure, but also as a way of firming up their reputation among their peers - who will, at the end of the day, be the people who are primarily fixing the interpretation and worth of their art. I think the same thing’s happening here. Social media, especially Twitter, is largely used to interact with your professional/creative peers in a way that grows your reputation, while also providing less material benefits. Needing that instant feedback can become a crutch, but I’m not entirely sure the need didn’t exist before, too.
(I’d also say that there are a number of musicians who, even in these days of mega-internetting, have managed to maintain at least as much mystery and completeness as Harvey did. Some artists prefer an outward-directed approach to creativity whereas others thrive in isolation. What works for Jeff Mangum doesn’t work for Bradford Cox, and vice versa.)
OK. Whoever created this understands some of the motivation behind Daft Punk’s new record, which is why it’s such a perfect visual-audio mashup. A part of me feels like Daft Punk would approve of this. It’s so simple, yet on point.
The Office has been nearly unwatchable for a few seasons and crossed the line into full irrelevance soon after Steve Carell left. Jim and Pam had moved from romantic tension into a functionally perfect relationship, and Ed Helms’ Andy seemed to change his basic personality traits every few episodes, making him very hard to care about. But halfway through this final season, Jim and Pam began having marriage problems after Jim pursued a career in another city without considering Pam’s needs. For a few episodes, we were faced with the wonderful possibility that the series might end with them breaking up. The Jim-Pam relationship was why people emotionally connected to The Office, and as wonderfully as the relationship had been written (primarily by Mindy Kaling), it would’ve been revelatory to see it critiqued, too. They seem to have reconciled, unfortunately, but by holding out the possibility of an actual breakup — sitcom main characters will always reconcile if there’s more time to fill, but might not if the show needs a climactic twist — it provided a firm dramatic center for the always-impressive supporting cast to do great work. (The series now looks to end on a goopy reunion note, but on the other hand Jim finds himself trapped in the exact same job at which he started, his dreams foiled by his own self-centeredness, so that’s a satisfying ending for those of us who’ve grown to truly despise Jim.)
On The Office, HIMYM, and why endings can be a creative boon.