Would derivative success bother you?

Let’s say you’ve been toiling away in your garret since you were a teenager. Maybe you’re a writer; maybe you’re a painter; maybe you’re some other sort of artist. The specifics don’t matter. The point is that you’ve been working hard at it for a long a long time with little financial success. You’ve had some CRITICAL success, but laudatory reviews and an empty sack are worth an empty sack, after all.

One day, while on a break from your day job, you meet a famous actor or singer in a bookstore. At first you don’t recognize him or her, as they’re glammed down, wearing dark glasses, whatever. The Celebrity likes your taste in books, and thinks you’re funny and charming, and before you know it you’re in love.

At first you keep the relationship discreet. But the Celebrity is simply batty about you and wants you with her or him at premieres and award shows. When the relationship goes public, doors start opening for you. Spielberg wants to produdce your screenplay; the MOMA wants to display your paintings; the New Yorker commissions you to write an article on the subject you’re most passionate about; and so forth.

Maybe this is because more people are paying attention to your blog than before, and thus you have a wider audience. Maybe it’s because of America’s obsession with celebrity. And maybe it’s because the Celebrity you’re in love with has been making phone calls on your behalf, because, after all, she or he loves you and wants you to be happy and successful.

Does this derivative success bother you at all? Why or why not?

Hell no it doesn’t bother me. In 10 years, I may or may not still be involved with the girl–but I’ll still have the published/distributed works and income derived therefrom. If we split up without her just going completely insane, I’ll likely think of her fondly as I cash the royalty checks.

ETA: Dammit. Didn’t realize there was a poll. I would have voted for the last option. I guess I’m sorta artisitic–I do write, used to act, do photography, etc–but this is purely a business decision in my book.

The only thing about the scenario you describe that might bother me would be if people started saying that the only reason for my success is that I’m the celebrity’s lover (as in, my work is shit but everybody’s pretending it isn’t because of our relationship).

A college roommate of mine had a brother that had a hit song in the late 80s. He met a producer who worked with Madonna who liked his stuff and that’s how he got his hit. I don’t think he had any problems with how he made it.

This. So long as I’m genuinely doing good work once I’m in a position to do so, who cares how I got there?

It’s the same condundrum as with any sort of networking, really - do you feel bad about getting a neat job at the company your father owns? About getting an interview at the nonprofit you’ve always wanted to work for after your friend in management makes it happen?

The world’s a crowded place - plenty of talented people never make it big, just because they never get noticed by the right folks. If this relationship can get your genuine talent noticed, more power to you.

I am older and far more cynical. Long as I’m getting paid, I don’t give a damn whether I get critical acclaim or not. If people want to pay me ridiculous sums of money to create crap, so be it. I’ll be the King of Crap, for the right fee.

I picked “other”. The optimal thing is financial success along with keeping my critical success. So much depends on accident, and getting in touch with the right people at the right time, who will take a chance. Why do so many of the kids of actors become actors also? It is not only genetics, it is exposure to casting directors. When my older daughter was acting a casting director asked my younger daughter, who was along, if she was interested in a part also. She wasn’t, but she go an opportunity many would be actors would have killed for.
I’d need the continued critical success to assure myself that the financial success was from getting a foot in the door and I still had it. If everyone said I was selling out, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

There are loads of tremendously talented people who never get the success they deserve because they never get the lucky break they need.

There’s nothing wrong with using powerful connections to open doors. It’s only wrong if you’re not able to sustain your success on your own after the doors are open.

I’d have no problem with it.

It wouldn’t bother me, either. I’m getting old enough and wise enough in the ways of the world to realize that most “overnight successes” have taken decades to get there. Getting a friendly boost would be fine by me.

I fit into the OP’s scenario perfectly . . . my entire house is filled with art work . . . my own and that of my parents, who were also artists. It wouldn’t bother me at all; in fact I’d be very grateful.

It wouldn’t bother me, assuming that my work was actually good. I wouldn’t want somebody boosting me and getting me unearned success if I sucked. But if my stuff was actually decent and just needed to get in front of more eyes in order to succeed, then sure, bring it on.


Ah, the Yoko conundrum.

I wouldn’t mind at all - usually success comes when the right people find you, so if you’re in a situation that can bring you to a wider audience, I don’t see the harm.

People aren’t going to blindly consume your work - if it’s not good, once the novelty of the situation wears off, people won’t buy your stuff and you’ll go back to the position you were in before - but you’ll probably be rich thanks to your celebrity partner anyway.

I don’t mind the celebrity opening doors, but what I write will have to stand on its own anyway.

What you call “derivative success” I call “networking.”

I dunno.

It’s one thing if Taye Diggs falls in love with you because of your brilliant prose poems, and, even if he weren’t doing you, would recommend it to everyone he meets the way I recommend Valerie Martin’s A Recent Martyr.

It’s another thing if Taye secretly thinks your writing sucks but you rock, and is just taking advantage of his position.

I voted for the second option, though I wouldn’t mind the celebrity arranging it, I wouldn’t want to seem unseemly, for lack of a better term. Having their manager make a few calls for me would be great; dragging me onto Oprah or something; not so much.

ETA: Heck, I believe in the olden days, this sort of thing would simply be considered a form of patronage, which is how artists made their crust back then.

But the person who buys the book at the publishing house is not going to care what he thinks about the quality. The important thing is that it gets you past three levels of screening, so your work doesn’t get rejected by some intern. It is a lot easier to get a job with a direct link to a hiring manager. You’ve automatically survived the winnowing process. You may not get it, but you have much better odds.