Is mime evil?

26, September,2007

Marcel Marceau has a lot to answer for.  Perhaps I’m being overly influenced by 101 Reasons to Stop Writing, but I think it is incumbent on people who are extremely talented to make some effort to make their job look difficult to discourage would be imitators.

First, let me say I think Marcel Marceau was a genius.  As a teenager I saw him.  A skinny man on a dark stage, interacting with a world made out of thin air.  Pure magic.

But what he spawned was evil, not quite karaoke evil, although this could be debated.
Like all true evils, Marcel Marceau’s magic world of mime was seductive.  I admit I was not immune, when I got home I tried ‘Walking into the wind” (later pinched by Michael Jackson and called the Moonwalk), and my brother can still do a commendable lizard trapped in a bottle, but we had the good sense to leave it at that.

What do normal people do if they have a passion but don’t quite have commercial talent?  Well, most people do the respectable thing, and confine their efforts to local arts groups (and good on them for having a crack).  You can see Uncle Dave’s drawings at the annual Lilydale show, or watch your niece in the Mooroolbark Players version of ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’.  Fantastic.

Most people are content to restrict their activities to consenting adults behind closed doors. 

But not Mimes. 

They have to take it to the streets.  They have to impose their mediocre talents on innocent shoppers.  Busking, and worse – street theatre.  (I hate street theatre, actually, I don’t hate it, I just feel embarrassed for the people doing it).

I don’t watch the various Idol programs, but they do have one redeeming feature, they clearly show the deluded, bedroom mirror singers where the bar is, and slap them down when they don’t reach it.

Perhaps the best way to honour Marcel Marceau’s passing is to form “Clockwork Orange’ style judging panels that roam shopping malls, taking out mediocre transgressors of the Silent Art.

What has this to with writing?  Well not much, except to say writing is easy but writing well is hard.  It requires effort, and practice, and research.  Just because J.K. is so successful she can now buy Wales, doesn’t mean you will be or can be.

Luckily, it’s hard for writers to delude themselves, as we have crit groups, friends, family, publishers, agents, editors, and occasionally complete strangers, all quite willing to tell us how crap we are (unless you do the literary equivalent of busking and self publish).

So farewell Marcel, you may have left a dodgy legacy, but at least they’re quiet.