Monday, August 21, 2017

Death of a Social Trail Blazing Comic; Death of a Nutty Comic and the Demise of the Kennedy Center Honors

Hall Of Nations Kennedy Center WashingtonThe recent deaths of two powerful comic icons, and the political statement from artists associated with the Kennedy Center Honors have challenged us as a society to consider how art intersects with politics. Media reflects how we as a society are grappling with how much right do artists have to affect political discourse. Is art inappropriately coercing its way into politics? Can these large scale events affect our mental health or involvement with romantic relationships, the professional workplace or social and community interactions?

The death of an icon can affect us in ways we do not expect? How poetic, at this time in our
Tv 70S 60S 1960S 1970S Vintage Televisionsocial and moral history, that this weekend we lost an elder while gaining an ancestor in Dick Gregory with his voice in social commentary now becoming history. His presence in the 1960’s set a tone for the entrance of black comic talent, and culturally diverse talent at large, into the exclusive elite supper clubs. He was the first black talent to change the course of The Tonight Show by accepting an invite by Jack Paar (The Jimmy Falon of their time) with the stipulation that his Blackness sit as a guest on The Tonight Show couch after his performance to engage with the host (A black performer had never done this prior). By demanding this, Mr. Gregory ended the-sing-the-song-and-then-leave-after-the-performance without conversing with The Tonight Show host.

The entertainment industry also lost Mr. Jerry Lewis at this writing. Controversial, yes, unappreciated perhaps, with some not understanding his art, he was rumored to be highly difficult amongst his peers, but loved by the masses with his over the top comedy which earned legions of followers in the U.S and abroad. An icon. His lengthy history of comedy in stage and film with Dean Martin and his MDA Labor Day Telethon from 1966 to 2014 became an institution.

These great comedic titans in many ways struggled in their personal lives and most probably represented ideal case studies in Comedy as Therapy: How Some Comedians Self-Treat Depression and Social Anxiety with Standup

To some, the representation of Mr. Gregory and Mr. Lewis’ powerful iconic deaths can mean more than the death of a family member. This arguably is due in part to the intimate unconditional one-sided love affair with the icon in which one identifies.

For some there is a difficulty with loss, which comes in many forms. We often think of death in the family as an acceptable pain. However, the death or loss of a social icon (Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, John Lennon; Recently, George Michael, Prince, Mary Tyler Moore and now Mr. Gregory and at this writing Jerry Lewis) can have a bereavement of ideology and nostalgic loss.

This loss in many forms is not only the bereavement of an iconic-type figure but it can be a disturbance in our normal operations; a jarring of a non-threatening arena. When a safety zone becomes threatened a type of loss might occur. The Kennedy Center Honors (KCH) is an example of that type of neutrality. For several decades the event remains an important non-partisan event for many Americans where art and politics engage to celebrate the excellence of art. The KCH Honors are overseen and selected by a nonprofit institution involving a national memorial. In short they represent the precipice of validation from the government and arguably symbolize America’s comparison to Great Britain’s knighthoods for the performing arts: the echelon of awards bestowed for an artist’s body of work over a lifetime in popular and high culture.
So when you have Carmen de Lavallade decline the Kennedy Center Honors invitation at the White House, or when you have Norman Lear decline the White House invitation (and at this writing yet another artist has declined) this might be unsettling for the American Psyche. How can we resolve recent social and political stressors, and then recover and come together as a nation and as a people of difference when there is ongoing social conflict? 

Do larger social challenges affect our relationships and our marital unions? How can we have easy meaningful lives when our biological sibling has different voting practices? How can we have non-tensioned engagements with our significant others when their mother or your in-laws conflict with your political, social and moral values? As odd as it may sound, losses of valued celebrities and the bereavement process, and the challenges of the foundation of a symbolic KCH create a significant negative social occurrence. How often have you had the KCH telecast go by only to casually hear of some seasoned artist being recognized at the water cooler at work? KCH is a tradition that we might take for granted as it runs smoothly. 

The presidential couple figure into the ritual of acknowledging art. The father figure oversees the ideology that art is good and has historical merit in America. Artists in America give us our credibility. The Artist and Icons provide templates in our social and relational formations and can be Jungian and Object Relational tools for self-growth and self expression. Some celebrities and Icons simply are not tabloid fluff. They have meaning in our lives. Such powerful archetypes, one could assert, are more significant than some family relations. Thus, how will you honor your loss and feelings of the Icon's representation in your life? Moreover, is it of concern when an American institution such as the KCH supports its honorees in declining attendance at the White House; as the paternal father figure of the U.S. dismisses the event due to possible moral conflict with the artists who have earned a place in American artistic cultural history. 
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For further support about grief and loss in society as it relates to the individual and relationships:

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