Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The hero countdown

I have discovered the ways of international VPN usage. And with this new-found knowledge, I have had the opportunity to watch The Mindy Project, a show whose pilot I saw three or four times in the space of a few months, and which I can only hope will continue to prove its quality as the series progresses.

Many moons ago I wrote an article for my school's best and most awesomest (like my grammar?) online news source detailing the tremendous respect I have for Mindy Kaling. She started out right after college going on auditions in New York, writing comedy and eventually becoming a monumental success (there were hitches in between, but you should read her memoir for details). And if she isn't an example of feminine awesomeness, then I am not one to judge. Girl power!

Anyway, I'm not going to spend this entire blog going on and on about Mindy Kaling. I've already done that. Look up the article I wrote about her a while back.

But I will take this time to gush in more general terms over the great quantity of heroes that I have. That includes Kaling, but it is not limited to her and her oeuvre.

So here goes nothing.

First I'll explain the origin of this list. It's on Facebook. There, that's it. Over time I've accumulated a list of people I look up to or admire. I've added them to Facebook as a constant reminder of my aspirations in life and in career. For the sake of expediency and because my eyes are only half open at the moment, I will not write about my family, but rather about the people in the public eye who I admire.

I don't feel like it would be respectful of me to gloss over my explanations of why I look up to my relatives, so until I can do that portion of the "hero" discussion justice, I will knowingly omit it.

Also, because it makes most sense to consolidate words when I worry about my lack of coherence, I will categorize my "heroes" into tight groups rather than listing them off individually. I hope this doesn't offend anyone.

The Writers
(i.e. John Keats, Jane Austen, Jonathan Safran Foer)

For years now I've planned on becoming a writer. In some capacity, I want to share my thoughts through the written word, to be able to spread ideas and stories with vibrant imagery and character studies. When I think about who I admire in terms of writers, I realize that the people I look to for inspiration are the same ones from whom I steal my most passionate ideals for the medium.

John Keats had a way of telling stories through his poetry that was both rich in narrative - many were stolen from classic folklore and religious texts - and strong in construction. He wrote long-form poems that told stories in the most eloquent and glorified language possible.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for romanticism, but this certainly carried on in the case of Jane Austen's work, which despite being indicative of a certain social order and rife with liberal attempts to break from the status quo, balances social commentary with some of the most inherently beautiful human interactions ever recorded in literature.

And of course there's Jonathan Safran Foer, whose book Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (choose the book over the film!) managed to tug at my heartstrings and kick at my funny bone just enough to put me in a constant state of riotous emotion.

This is the kind of thing that writing is good for, and why I want to do it. It inspires feelings, it assesses them objectively and subjectively. It's fun, it's beautiful and it's expressive.

The Directors
(i.e. Noah Baumbach, Woody Allen)

Writing isn't the only expressive medium that I admire, though. While I don't believe I have the talent or the conviction to become a director, over the years I've become just enamored enough with film to find an appreciation for the men behind the creations.

Noah Baumbach, as compared to many other famous directors, is a relative unknown. He has done some wonderful work for a few decades (including one of my favorite films, The Squid & the Whale), but he is seriously under-appreciated and under-recognized for his incredible contributions to the independent film industry.

Then there's Woody Allen who is certainly not under-appreciated, nor is he under-represented. But his work is along the same lines as the writing I enjoy reading and creating myself. It is crisp and clean-cut, ready to share details of an intimate story rather than keep visitors on the periphery. The true test of an Allen film is how much of a universal truth is spoken in the most early or very last moments of the film. That and the stumbled-over words and abounding neurotic characters. The intricacies of Allen's directorial style - his stylistic choices - and his place as an auteur who writes many of the screenplays he puts to film, make him one of the most fascinating filmmakers of all time.

The Musical Minds
(i.e. Howard Ashman, Jonathan Larson)

This could be renamed the "didn't live long enough" category. While I've spread the wealth within my other lists among living and non-living candidates, in this section lie only two men who are both deceased.

They were also both musicians, both liberal-minded, both involved with and in love with musical theater. Etc. Etc. Comparisons.

The difference between them was that Howard Ashman went from Broadway to Disney and Jonathan Larson never quite got past the New York theater. Partially because he didn't strike it famous until Rent came out posthumously, and partially because New York was integral to his character, to his being.

These two beautiful minds died at incredibly young ages, which for someone like me who really appreciates their work, is a disappointment.

But Ashman and Larson live on through their music. And in a way that's something I'd wish to accomplish myself. To be so relevant as to create something artistic that is still appreciated by artists and fans alike years on.

The Funny Women
(i.e. Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Judy Garland)

The final group of heroes includes the famous Mindy Kaling of earlier blog repute.

I am not particularly funny, but I've always loved those who are. My humor is deadpan and sarcastic. It can freak people out if they don't understand the pessimistic hilarity of it all.

Still, I like to believe I draw some personal comedic influence from the women I've listed above. Mindy and Tina for their self-mocking humor, Amy for her kookiness and Judy for her endearing comedic style coupled with her many other artistic talents.

In a way, I wish I could say I draw influence from all of these people in my day to day life. That in moments of creation or even just immense thought, I draw on their lives to help me shape mine.

Unfortunately that's not always possible. But it's worth a shot at the very least - and hopefully compiling a definitive list such as this will make some difference in how I conduct myself the long-run. It's a hopeful thought, but I believe a little reminder of positive influences can go a long way.

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