Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Envelope Please

by Robison Wells

The Oscar nominees were announced today. Unlike a lot of people, I actually get excited about them--I love to read movie reviews and movie criticism, and love to debate the award shows. So, when Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held their press conference this morning, my brother Dan and I simultaneously emailed to get each others' reaction.

Dan asked this question:
"I wonder what will happen if [Jennifer Hudson] wins—-one of the most powerful effects of an Oscar is that it will follow your name around forever afterward: Academy Award Winner Jennifer Hudson. But the title of 'Former American Idol Contestant' has thus far proven almost as permanent, and I think in Hudson’s case it has actually been to her detriment; she isn’t a real actress or a singer, she’s a former Idol contestant, and that colors everything people say or think about her. Will winning an Oscar change that, or will she forever be 'that girl who didn’t win American Idol'?"

I've been thinking about this kind of thing a lot lately, but from a writer's perspective. All artists live and die, it seems, by the labels we wear and the awards we win. Jennifer Hudson is not a legitimate singer (we are led to believe) because she wears the label "American Idol Loser". To some, the mere fact that she was an American Idol contestant, loser OR winner, is enough to mar her singing career--if you noticed, when Kelly Clarkson (the first AI winner) won two Grammy Awards she did not even acknowledge AI in her acceptance speeches. She was carefully trying to remove that label--and that label was far better than the one Jennifer Hudson was stuck with.

As an aspiring writer, people used to kind of smirk when I told them I had pipe dreams of becoming an author. When I'd tell people of the endless hours I spent holed up in my office, some would even criticize me for the waste of time. When I was finally published, that all changed. I actually have a relative who rarely gave me anything more than a roll of the eyes for most of my life, but who has declared herself my best friend since I'm published. That label, which does absolutely nothing to change my actual writing ability, instantly alters peoples' perceptions. Others (the publisher) think I'm good, so now it's okay.

Of course, it's not like I haven't run into more labels now that I've been published. Some still refuse to consider me a legitimate writer because I write LDS fiction which, as we all know, could be written by gangrenous monkeys and dyslexic pre-schoolers. Others consider all genre fiction to be the acne-faced step-brother of literary fiction.

I hope Jennifer Hudson wins. Rather than keeping the "American Idol Loser" label, it could easily turn to her benefit. People generally respect the Oscars much more than they respect American Idol (I would hope). People might hold her up to show that she's great, despite the fact that American Idol tossed her--not unlike stories of how JK Rowling was rejected by thirty-or-so publishers before finally getting a contract. It doesn't reflect badly on Rowling, it just makes people say "those publishers sure missed the boat".

And who knows? With the direction LDS fiction is going it might not be long before some of the authors will be garnering national attention and awards. Will that change people's stereotypes about the LDS market? Maybe; maybe not. But it will change their opinions about the award-winning author, and that can't be anything but good for the entire genre--even if only in the long-term.

My only hope is that it's not Jeff Savage who wins: I'd hate to see him traipsing down the red carpet in some skimpy Oscar de la Renta dress. People Magazine, watch out!


At 1/23/2007 2:55 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

Do you think the fact that I have the label "Evil" attached to me is going to hurt me in the long run?

At 1/23/2007 6:24 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

No, the Evil is cancelled out by the HR. Kind of like multiplying negative numbers.

At 1/23/2007 7:21 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

Ahh, that makes sense.

At 1/24/2007 1:29 PM, Blogger FHL said...

Rob, if you like reading movie reviews with a dash of humor, I'd recommend Eric Snider's blog. He puts out a weekly newsletter with movie reviews and he's doing a blog from the Sundance Movie Festival right now.

For any of you that attended BYU a few years back, he had a regular column in the Daily Universe called "Snide Remarks" - even though I didn't attend, I would often pick up the DU just to read his columns.

I'm surprised you're not doing an Oscar pool. Perhaps you're gunshy after your crushing defeat in the Bowls by Stephanie. =)

In other news, I played War! Age of Imperialism! last night (ranked #2398, and for good reason) and achieved levels of suckitude the likes of which have not been seen this side of an Oreck! (Think Risk or Attack!, but take out all of the fun.)

At 1/27/2007 11:06 PM, Blogger Josi said...

Rob--you talk about that Oscar de la Renta dress as if you aren't on up-close-and-personal terms with it. Modest might be hottest, but Rob in a dress is something to behold--just shave your legs next time. At least Jeff wears stockings with his evening wear :-)


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