I once wrote a very rambling post on this issue, I’ll not bore you with that one, merely provide a link to it at the end. I’m not going to talk about the sort of talent shows you might see at school or church where there is no competition going on, but the mass-market talent contests such as Superstar, x-factor, This or that country’s got talent and whatever other such formats you are familiar with or will arise in the future.
Here there’s no-one declaring every entrant to be a winner just for taking part, here there is genuine evaluation of artistic qualities, of whatever sort are being sought by the given contest. Here we want people who massively overrate their own abilities to receive an honest (if not withering) assessment, and those who have a genuine and well developed gift but are full of doubt about themselves to receive the acclaim and encouragement they need to further hone their abilities and produce something truly worthwhile.
Many people in the audience at the show are there to savour the maulings at the hands of the panel, some to poke fun at the people too full of themselves, and some just hope for a decent bit of entertainment from somewhere, but what really makes their day and ends up going viral (and what the organisers of the contest if not the audience really hope for) is when in the midst of the drudgery and humdrum performers a humble unassuming package contains a gift so refined that the audience gains a peek into a higher world, there is the faintest glimmer of heaven opening just a crack to give everyone the briefest whiff of celestial air; true beauty, living and dynamic that bears witness to the truth. Talent contests are a public hunt for the superversive.
Many such instances have been captured through the years where the lesson to draw is not to judge a book by its cover, but there was one such incident (there may be others that I am unaware of, I don’t follow these shows, only occasionally catch one of the viral videos) that illustrated a great deal more than that, opening my eyes to the value and purpose of friendship, and by extension, the value and purpose of art.
I am referring to the pair of Jonathan Antoine and Charlotte Jaconelli. Over the course of their progress through Britain’s Got Talent, in particular their initial audition (but also in their performance in the next round), demonstrated not just performances of high artistic merit, but strengths of character and a depth of friendship that is worth remembering and emulating. At one point one was in a position of power over the other and then later the situation was reversed. At those times each used that power to support and defend the other rather than grab glory for themselves. Harsh criticism was not used as an excuse to mope and give up, but as motivation to focus and improve.
Each complemented the other and enabled the other to reach new heights. Neither one of them would have been able to make that transformative journey without the other, and both of them acknowledged and appreciated that fact, and valued each other as friends. Inquiries as to whether they were romantically involved with each other were not denied with a sense of shame, but simply answered with the disarming vitality of innocence.
I understand that they have now gone their separate ways artistically, but even should everythgin fall apart form this point on, through their journey together they showed me the following things, for which I am grateful:
Firstly, the purpose of good art is to soar and take the audience with you – to catch a glimpse of the divine, take hold of a little piece of heaven, bring it down to earth and share it.
Secondly, the purpose of friendship is to help someone else to soar, to overcome their flaws and achieve something worthwhile.
Thirdly, by extension, the purpose of parenthood is to prepare your children to soar, to grow, strengthen and properly use their wings, show them which way is up, instil in them the character they need to recognize and persevere towards worthy goals, and cultivate in them the skills they need to reach them.
Not bad for a pair of teenagers, eh?