I don’t often make this type of blanket statement, because even BFFs disagree every once in a while, but I am fairly confident that a requirement for truly getting along with me is enjoying—at least a little bit—watching The Kennedy Center Honors.
This annual televised celebration of the arts was on last night, and I meant what I said when I tweeted about “Artsy-kid Super Bowl.” It’s one of those TV events I look forward to every holiday season, nestled snugly between Christmas and New Year’s, one last confetti-bomb of inspiration before we call it quits for the year and set creative goals for the new one.
This year (honoring Meryl Streep, Neil Diamond, Yo-Yo Ma, and, new to me, Sonny Rollins and Barbara Cook) was maybe the best yet (although last year’s Oprah / Paul McCartney one-two punch was pretty unbelievable). I love, but love the Kennedy Center Honors. When else do you get to see the President and First Lady all tuxed-up and rocking out to a lineup of tributes featuring Elmo, Stephen Colbert, James Taylor, and Anne Hathaway in all her plucky, song-belting glory?
The KCH has just absolutely so much that I love in one 2-hour block of television:
- Awards-show atmosphere
- Fancy dress
- The President & First Lady valuing the arts (and lookin’ good)
- Lifetime achievement montages (it’s an entire show of moving bio footage & tribute performances. it’s the best.)
- Dance numbers
- Surprise celebrity appearances
- Dreams earned and honored
- A general sense of overcoming-your-foibles-to-create-something-meaningful
- The pure celebration of artistic greatness. No cynicism or irony or snark. Just joy.
The pure joy of a long life well-lived. Creativity and art and music and performance and literature. These are things that people do. We’ve invented a lot of shit, collectively: Nuclear weapons. Acid wash jeans. Nicholas Sparks novels… But we also come up with greatness, sometimes. And when we do, it’s really really great.
One of my favorite, favorite things is being completely surprise-inspired by an artist of another field. Totally happened tonight with the music people:
”If you can get to the point where you are ready to use every joy, every death, every lover who left you…if you’re willing to explore that within the song…you cannot be wrong.” —Barbara Cook
“The very place where safety lies for us is the place that seems most dangerous: that is having the courage to let people into what life has really done to us.” —Barbara Cook
“Every day I make an effort to go toward what I don’t understand.”
“Mister Yo-Yo Ma taught Elmo that music is like a playground.” —Elmo
So let’s go back to the no-snark idea. This thing is #hashtag-proof, or at least it should be… (I was tweeting favorite #KennedyCenterHonors moments myself last night, alongside fellow nerds…)
Googling around for quotes and info just now, I found that the AV Club review gave the show a “C-“, criticizing the over-the-topness of it all. My point exactly, blogosphere. The writer’s tone is this snide “well, as if people ever really feel honored or excited or moved…” over-analyzation that leaves me feeling sad. For him. (Poor Phil Nugent, have you ever enjoyed something, purely, without pausing to mock it with your clever observations, in your life? Have you ever experienced anything beautiful or true without lifting your leg on it immediately afterwards? I bet you don’t think that beautiful or true things exist. Poor, poor Phil Nugent…)
My generation is afraid to celebrate anything unironically. We have got to just stop that. Stop it, now. Somebody has to keep believing in the arts so that in decades to come, we’ll still have musicals and jazz and well-acted movies with scripts that rise above Stephenie Meyer adaptations written to fill seats with tweens.
We can do it, guys. We can give a shit about something for a change. C’mon! It’s a new year!! Let’s do it! (Does splits like Anne Hathaway. Unironically.)