Birdman, life and extremes

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BirdmanAlejandro González Iñárritu, director of the film Birdman, recently had some interesting things to say about the movie’s main character, Riggan, played by Michael Keaton… and about all of us.

“He thinks that he is a great fucking artist half the time and half the time he thinks that he is a fucking jellyfish… We want to conquer the world and have 1,000 likes, 1 million likes, but at the same time we are depressed. We are lonely but we have 10,000 followers. We are all bipolar. I’m popular but I’m lonely, I’m an artist but I’m a whore. That’s how this guy [Riggan] operates.”

Great sound byte, that… mainly because it uses absolute extremes to make its point, just as Birdman is a film about a character living at the extremes of behavior.  And it forces readers to pause when considering themselves, making them self-evaluate against similar extremes.  As a writer, I am prompted by the comment to evaluate myself as “an artist… and a whore.”

But the thing is that most of us don’t live at the extremes that movies try to present to us.  In reality, most of us don’t swing between saint and sinner—we live somewhere in-between.  I don’t think of myself as an arr-teest, a brilliant writer, a muse… nor do I consider myself a hack, a faker prostituting myself for my pennies.  I exist somewhere in-between: A creator, a craftsman, an entertainer, a salesman, a worker.  Spending too much time at the extremes makes it impossible to function: You’re either so high above everyone that they can’t relate to you, or you’re so far below them that you can’t stand up for yourself.  Extremes make you impotent.

birdman fight

Batman vs the Hulk? No, just two old guys who should get a room.

Sometimes, you have to approach life as if you’re on a stage in front of the world… and you have to use that old “picture the audience in their underwear” trick to keep yourself grounded in front of everyone.  Because it’s just as important to remind yourself that most of those people out there aren’t living at the extremes, either; they’re in-between, just like you.

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