This weekend the latest Transformers movie was released. As one might expect, the film was mercilessly panned by critics even as it is packing the local Cineplex and knocking on the door of a one hundred million dollar box office weekend. In other words, this critical turd appears to be the common man’s ideal night out. And the infamous director Michael Bay can now buy ten more Ferraris if he likes. Critics be damned.
It got me thinking back to a thought experiment I devised some time ago…
* * *
You want to be an artist — film director, actor, musician, painter, whatever — but as yet you languish in obscurity. Then your fairy godmother comes to you and makes you an offer:
“I will grant you your wish to be an artist,” she says.
“Sweet!” you reply.
“But there is a catch.” she adds with wry smile. “There are two measures of success: artistic quality (AQ) and commercial success (CS). And a zero-sum exists between them. Each exists on a scale of 1-10. A 1 on AQ means your production is nothing more than a worthless reshuffling of the previous works of far greater artists. By contrast, a 10 on AQ means you are a genius of your craft.
“A 1 on CS means you never make a dime off your work and you live in obscurity. But like Van Gogh, your work may be discovered after your death. It may. There are no guarantees. A 10 on CS means you are a towering commercial success.
“I’m giving you ten points to spend at the fairy store and you can divvy them up anyway you like between AQ and CS. For example, 7 AQ and 3 CS will give you significant genius and a small cult following that recognizes the quality of your work. By contrast, 3 AQ and 7 CS would give you a critical output that is at least not wholly reviled by critics coupled with significant commercial success. So how do you want to divide up the points between AQ and CS?”
I’m still mulling over the answer.