Last Friday, we went out to see Amélie the Musical at the Criterion Theater. My partner chose it because he loves the film a lot: it was one of the movies we watched during the height of the pandemic last year. (We played the movie in sync while on a Google Meet call, which is pretty much how we survived the long-distance relationship.)
It was surreal to get back inside the theater for the first time since COVID started, and seeing the West End bustling with so much life made me miss watching plays and movies in Manila. (Wicked has started showing again, while The Book of Mormon has been bombarding me with reminders that it will resume this November.)
We arrived in the area a bit early, so we decided to take a leisurely walk around Soho and Chinatown, passing by Whole Foods to buy this delicious (but quite expensive) dark chocolate vegan probiotic drink. It reminded me of Magnolia Chocolait, which I drank a lot before I became vegan. In hindsight, I now realize that I lived most of my childhood years with the utmost stubbornness and stupidity of a cat crossing a highway: I’m lactose-intolerant and I had constant gastrointestinal distress because I refused to let go of milk.
We also checked out some optical shops in the area. The new health insurance we’re getting covers eyeglasses and he said it would be good to window-shop for a bit before finally making a decision. Trying to be more conscientious about my purchases, I agreed. For the record, on the previous occasions when I needed to buy something, I ended up getting caught in analysis paralysis and not buying anything at all, but I suppose that’s not such a bad thing, considering that there’s a lot of things we honestly could do without.
I have to admit, a lot of my purchasing decisions are often marketing-induced rather than from an actual need: it’s just so easy to get caught up in this vicious cycle of consumerism.
Case in point: I told him that I saw a video of Stories, Ray-ban’s newly released smart eyewear produced in collaboration with Facebook, and I’d like to get that one.
“You don’t need that! It looks stupid,” my partner said as I showed him the window display in one of the shops we saw days before.
Admittedly, I felt similarly excited when Google Glasses launched years ago, but that piece of technology fizzled out and I’m scared that this one will meet the same fate as ambitious predecessors, like Snapchat’s Spectacles.
I’ve since been debating in my head whether it was a good idea to further trap myself in the Facebook ecosystem by purchasing a prescription version of the gadget. Not to sound like a neo-Luddite, but is it more hype than anything else? I often catch myself spending too much time on social media already. The last thing I need is another thing that makes it easier to overshare instead of just being in the moment.
It’s exhausting, trying to keep up with everything that’s happening on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and now Tiktok too. (Seriously, who finds the time to keep updated with all the trends?)
It’s a luxury to disconnect these days. I should know. My work is in marketing and communications, and there’s that never-ending pressure to always know what’s cool, to keep up with the cultural zeitgeist. Finding space to enjoy your passion outside the context of utility is a privilege. That privilege requires money.
I sometimes envy people who can do whatever they want without thinking about the costs. It must be mind-blowing to be a trust fund kid. I once believed that passion was enough to be successful in life, and then I realized that it was delusional to even imagine that life works out that way. For every successful artist, many will go down forgotten.
Of course, success has different meanings for different people. What I mean by success in this context is being financially stable enough that your art pays for your living. But is it still even art though if you pursue it for purely commercial reasons?
Following that thought, it’s tragic when artists struggle throughout their lives and only get recognized posthumously. What’s the point? The only people who get to reap the rewards and accolades are the owners of the dead artist’s estate. Not to say that we should all fail our personal marshmallow tests and not work for a better future, but to sacrifice your whole life for an aspiration, so people can romanticize your suffering and also launder money through art, is not exactly a very good deal.
It depresses me when I think that the only people entitled to create and consume art are rich people. When I was younger, I wanted to write a lot, maybe even pursue art. Now I keep thinking of the profitability of doing something, and I’m infuriated by the fact that people in the creative field are often the most exploited because those who hire them think creatives are willing to work for peanuts just because they’re passionate about their work.
This makes me wonder if the reason why I can’t fully enjoy “Amélie” is because I should’ve watched this as a young man. I should’ve seen the film when it first came out years ago, when everyone in college was raving about it, and not in my 30s. The adult in me thinks that she is very juvenile and naïve, and I wonder if I’m just too jaded to enjoy how whimsical she is, how her whole world seemed to be rose-colored and bright, so unlike the world we live in now.