A few days ago, my friend Leslie, who works as an actress and producer in theater, made me aware of some sobering facts gathered from an international survey taken during the pandemic. When asked which types of workers are most and least valued to them, respondents indicated that health care workers are the most valued, and artists are the least valued.
While the value of health care workers cannot be disputed (now or ever), the perceived value of art and artists among those who do not create is appalling—and has been for a long time. And yet what is everyone doing while they’re stuck at home, unable to safely venture out into the world? Streaming movies, listening to music, playing video games, watching theater performances on TV, reading books, and scratching for any kind of amusement they can get their hands on. Oh, yeah…they’re consuming art, debates notwithstanding on what defines good or bad art.
Sad to say, this is nothing new. Your average consumer who is not an artist of some sort, who has no concept of what it actually means to create something from nothing, expects their entertainment to magically appear out of nowhere and be delivered free of charge. If you ask them to pay for it, they throw a hissy fit and seek out some sub-human who has figured out a way to steal our songs, videos and books, and then quips, “Why buy it when I can get it for free?” My reply to that attitude cannot be printed here.
Let’s look at what is happening to art, artists and entertainment workers right now:
- Broadway is closed through the end of 2020
- The New York City Ballet has canceled all performances through the end of the year
- The Metropolitan Opera will open its season on December 31, 2020
- The San Francisco Opera has canceled its 2020 season
- Name a tour, and I guarantee it either has been, or will be, canceled
- Last week, CNN reported that Cirque du Soleil filed for bankruptcy and will cut 3,500 jobs
- The Louvre reopened yesterday with new rules: all visitors are required to book a time slot and wear a mask while in the museum. Social distancing measures recommended for public spaces will be followed, meaning that attendance capacity has been drastically reduced.
- The cruise ship industry is devastated
When unemployment statistics for June were released, the report was that unemployment dropped to 11.1 percent. That’s a bunch of baloney. A June poll surveying independent contractors working in the pro sound and lighting industry showed that 97 percent had lost their jobs due to the pandemic; 92 percent do not believe that they will be recalled; 57 percent filed for unemployment; 47 percent have only enough money to pay their rent or mortgage for the next 30 to 60 days; 6 percent have lost their health care (a number that’s more a reflection of how many independent workers in our industry don’t have health care in the first place as it is an indicator of how many lost it); another 21 percent expect to lose their health care in the near-future.
When I read these numbers, and I see scores of my friends and colleagues unemployed and hurting, and then I see people ignoring social distancing guidelines, I am furious. Every time I witness someone in a social setting without a mask, I think, “Thanks, you moron. You’re preventing me from getting back to work.”
Sure, everyone is suffering, but entertainment industry workers are the last in line because by its very nature our work requires large gatherings of people. And that simply won’t be happening safely any time soon on a consistent basis.
What I wish we could do is subject the world to just one day without any entertainment. I wish I could orchestrate a strike of epic proportion whereby there would be no music played anywhere, no theater, no video streaming, no video gaming, no movies, no museums open to visit, nothing across the entire Earth. I’m not talking about this BS from a bunch of privileged clowns who announce, “Oh, I won’t tweet or post on Facebook for a day, that will really show people how important I am” (not). I’m talking about a complete shutdown of art and entertainment.
It wouldn’t elevate entertainment workers to the level of health care workers (nor should it), but maybe, just maybe, it might convince the selfish idiots who won’t practice social distancing, who refuse to wear a mask, who won’t cooperate with contact tracers, and who don’t value arts and entertainment, to have some respect for those of us who just want to get back to work.