I heard a radio advertisement yesterday that the great great (great?) grandson of Charles Dickens would be presenting a reading of A Christmas Carol somewhere, creating different voices of all the characters.
Interesting? Perhaps, but it got me thinking about how many people get opportunities to publish, to speak, to act, to . . . whatever, simply because of their relationship to someone famous. They may not have a single talent in their own right, but a distant link to a distant relative gets their foot in the door like nothing else can.
I suppose the children of writers, artists, actors, great politicians (if there is such a thing), speakers, etc. have it in their blood, but talent doesn’t necessarily get passed down from generation to generation. They may have access to incredible teaching, and opportunities to absorb the craft of whatever it is through observation and interaction, but that does not guarantee the same skill and ability will resurface.
Still, in our world of aggrandizing movie stars and putting people on pedestals, talent seems less important than having a famous relative. There are almost too many examples of this, and whenever you walk into a book store you can easily find a book published by a name, not a famous writer but someone who is writing because he/she is famous or related to someone famous.
Perhaps if I could trace my lineage back to someone famous, I too would be able to ride the coattails of fame. Or, better yet, if I could prove I was, indeed the REINCARNATION of William Shakespeare or Charlotte Bronte, or anyone else with creative chops that I admire I could simply walk up to a publisher and say “here is my manuscript, you will publish it errors and all.”
Sadly, my grandfather on one side was a butcher and on the other a salesman (insurance I think). I cannot simply use my name for fame.
Now I have not heard this descendant of Dickens perform, and he could be a perfectly talented storyteller. But here is an interesting observation from Louisa May Alcott quoted in the Cheever’s biography I have been quoting from so liberally lately:
. . . [S]he excited went to her Dickens read and came away bitterly disappointed in the man and his performance. “Youth and comeliness were gone, but the foppishness remained, and the red-faced man, with false teeth and the voice of a worn-out actor had his scanty grey hair curled.”
It just goes to show you that just because your name is on the book, doesn’t mean you are the best person to perform it.
I would argue that most actors nowadays get their big break because of their connections with someone else. If you look at some of the new stars of stage and screen, you nearly always find “daughter of so and so” or “nephew of what’s his name.”
It is almost impossible to make it on talent alone.
And that, my friends, is one of the biggest problems with our society. The rich get richer, not because they are more deserving than others or work harder, but because they are related to the original founder of that fortune. People get to write books and have them published traditionally, not because they ar the best wordsmiths on earth, but because they were born to someone famous. Performers get their opportunities to perform because Daddy brought them onstage. A woman whose claim to fame is only a big booty and a lifelong friendship with the daughter of someone rich and famous can keep herself plastered in the news with fake marriages, reality television, as well as “running” her own business (I wonder who really runs it). A man, the son of a former president, maintains a presidency by manipulating a system and leaves chaos in his wake which he then blames on the upstart who dared to step into the presidency without any family connections.
I wish we were in a world where truly talented individuals could make their marks rather than a world dominated by people riding on the fame of their more talented ancestors. Don’t you?