When I was in high school, to my classmates and I, Rent was the coolest production to ever grace the stage. It was dominating Broadway, it had been around for almost a decade, so it had its tenure on the stage, and it was being made into a movie. My high school theatre group took a trip to New York and saw Rent on Broadway, and that was it! We wanted to be that boho group of rebels. We sang the songs. We dressed in our boho chic fashion, and we moo’d on the daily (at least I did). When that movie finally came out, we were there at the midnight premier cheering (and crying) with the cast. We were young, free-spirited artists celebrating the ideals of integrity and inspiration. Bohemia was definitely not dead! Even watching Rent today ignites the artistic rebel in me ever so slightly, adding a bit of fuel back into my fire.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I held onto those ideals. Money didn’t matter. We were young and empowered. Stability didn’t matter. There were days I only had 5 cents in my account, and we ate Ramen with pride. Though, I was always responsible, and I continued to work hard at my craft, I recognized that there was, in fact, a business behind it, too.
And, as you grow older, the business side of life balances out more with the artistic side of life in a natural and strangely universal way.
So, after turning 30 (oh lord!) and re-watching it as an adult, I also began to over-analyze Rent (something my teenage self would surely hate me for). A friend of mine once joked that you know you’re becoming old and mature when you start relating to Benny… and they weren’t wrong. This guy is trying to set up a stable business and hook his friends up, but his friends deny his integrity because he ‘sold out’ by moving into the business world. Time and again he tries to help them and make exceptions for them to only be cast aside. Now, he’s kind of a douche, too, so at least you can still root against him as best you can. And, inevitably, it leads to the question of integrity: “When is it too much?”
After all, while integrity in your art is important, who is to say that you are selling out just because you are ALSO making money? If you can find a balance in staying true to yourself while also making money in a way you enjoy- what’s wrong with that? As an adult, the one thing that makes me roll my eyes in Rent is Mark feeling as if he lost his integrity by ‘selling out’ because he starts working for a tabloid-like journalist team. But if he gets to make his own movie (which he clearly still does) AND can also make money shooting these films… why not do both? When we’re young, the idea to stick it to the man and just create your art just makes sense to us. But at some point, as we mature, we begin to understand that maybe, just maybe, having integrity doesn’t have to mean starving. Perhaps, we can keep our integrity, do what we love, and make money, too? Hell, I do it!
I proudly make my own content while also working as a writer and editor for other companies. I love what I do. I don’t always love the topics I have to write about, but it’s good money to get to do what I love. AND I can still balance my own art in there, too. So, what’s the issue? Who am I really fighting with if I fight against it? When I succumb to it, after all, it’s a win-win. So, why fight the inevitable?
At some point we learn to stop fighting with the business side of the art and embrace it (at least most of us do), and that’s okay! Am I betraying my inner Maureen? A young, rebellious me might say yes. But the older, mature, wiser version for me is screaming for me to have my cake and eat it, too. I can be balanced. I can have money. I can make money loving what I do. And I can still be true to myself.
I hope you all learn to live creatively and passionately as who you were meant to be while also succeeding in life- isn’t that the real dream, after all?