For anyone familiar with arts programs, it’s an accepted truism that art can cross boundaries which other types of human interaction can’t; or at least that art can do so more easily. A quick Google search of “art breaking down barriers” yields the following four top results.
- Breaking Down Barriers Through Art | MICA
- Breaking Down Barriers Through Art | FUS
- How art breaks down barriers and builds up communities
- Breaking Down Barriers in the Arts for People with Disabilities | NEA
Each looks at this concept from a different angle, and while 4 search results do not a scientific review make, its something I personally agree exists.
Today, I wanted instead to share a couple of examples of how I’ve seen of art, particularly of the entertainment variety, pulling communities together through the connection of the internet.
I am a musician – a singer – and so music speaks very directly to me. One source for my personal enjoyment which popped up on my viral internet radar is the group Leonid and Friends, a group of Russian and Ukrainian musicians who are resurrecting music from the 1970’s American supergroup, Chicago. They’ve become popular by catering to a particular sound – trying to replicate the music as it sounded on the original recordings – and hence have gained a following.
Recently, they conducted a tour to the United States, and while I didn’t get to attend, I am fascinated with how much good will they engendered. Particularly when there have been and continue to be recent issues between the United States and Russia. One of the band’s contacts did an excellent documentary about themand it was interesting to me to see how shocked and amazed the band was by the enthusiasm of their fans, regardless of the political barriers today’s societies have in place.
I have loved the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and with each passing year, they have grown larger and larger in the collective consciousness. Enough so that the most recent entry, Avengers: Endgame, has become the second highest-grossing movie (not adjusted for inflation) of all time in only two weeks. Over $2 billions dollars in revenue is a shocking number and this film has done it in record time.
And no, having seen it, I will not spoil anything.
Because there is a army of people out there who worked nearly tirelessly to prevent spoilers from propagating and I now feel myself to be one of them.
On Reddit and Imgur, two of the internet haunts I enjoy for my keyboard communities, each have “home pages” where the most viral posts are pushed up so they can attract more eyeballs; getting up-votes is one way that happens. Starting right after the very first showings of Endgame, there were active campaigns of people who had seen the film and started hunting out and down-voting any spoilers that were posted to bury them. To prevent them from becoming viral. To prevent them making their way to the main front pages where the unsuspecting might see.
It was a generosity borne out of a shared fandom, a desire to help people who may be in circumstances where they couldn’t see the film opening weekend, for whatever reason.
This is weird.
Fandom is built on conversations around shared experiences with a particular show/book/movie/song/episode/etc. And yet the community of fandom with Endgame was actively trying to disrupt and break this facet of fandom. Not forever. Not maliciously. But with generosity. This was about acknowledging that just because I might have seen it open weekend, that didn’t somehow make me better or more worthy or more “fanatic” than someone else. That everyone should have the same chance to experience that movie with the same surprise and emotion regardless of when they see it.
It hasn’t just been Endgame – other similar groups are doing the same for Game of Thrones, another hugely popular series.
No real point other than it is pleasing to me to see these new types of kindness starting to pop up in the digital communities that we inhabit. And if I were to connect them to anything I would want, I would look at it from my own particular stated goal of fostering trustworthy creators.
Leonid Vorobyev and his crew of players are doing something they honestly love and keep doing it because people have responded – they are trustworthy because they haven’t tried to co-op or steal, but to create and share. Marvel has found a way to stay true to the decades of comics that long-time fans have loved while still also making it possible for new fans (like me) to engage with these characters and stories who don’t have that background.
I am not yet that prolific or good with my fiction, but I am working hard to be better so that I hopefully will be able to make some kind of impact for good. Maybe one day my art will help people cross barriers. I encourage you to keep working towards the same.