They smiled. All of us knew what I meant, and yet no one overhearing us would think me anything but an idealistic altruist, which is what all four of wanted. One might expect this to go on to discuss a hit. That did not occur; we resumed our inebriated small talk about celebrities, gossiping like everyone else. The drinking gave us the social cover needed to ignore that the serious subtext ever occurred.
As I made ready to return to the United States from Japan, I received an invitation to travel in the company of one of the most famous entertainment corporations in the world—theme parks, films, television, iconic comic characters, music, etc.—and recently acquired one of the two greatest comic book publishers in the world to make into a subsidiary for the purpose of exploiting its own set of iconic characters. I would be with the Chief Executive Officer of that corporation as well as that of the same comic publisher. I learned as I got that invitation that I came recommend by the Japanese executive that I dined with just a few nights before. It was then that I recalled the ties between the animation studio and the entertainment corporation; the other night was an interview, not the usual shmoozing.
This corporation is notorious for its in-house talent farm, many of which go on to careers that often end early with either a tragic accident or a sudden shift out of the spotlight due to their falling before a planned irrelevance, only for them to try again by submitting their own children to the same system of exploitation that used and abused them. As I sat on the plane with this CEO beside me, he said to me this:
“Many of the difficulties that these young performers face can be met, and my colleagues do work with their people to see that those difficulties get defeated, but some of them simply can’t be dealt with because they are beyond our reach. The business as a whole gets In its own way because once-great performers from a previous generation choke out the life of these young people, bolstering their own fading relevance as vampires feed off the blood of the living, ruining them in the process. If only someone would remind them that their part is played out, and they need to get off the stage.”
He looked at me as he said that last part. I glanced over, across the aisle, to his colleague from the comic publisher, and he nodded in concurrence. Given the talent in their recent big-picture items, I can see why both of these executives would want to do away with the elder generation of talent.
“It’s pathetic.” I said, “Too many hangers-on depend on this cadre of creeping cadavers to tell them the truth, and too many others don’t have either the means or the drive to clear out these idols so long past their time. They are irrelevant, and they need to be pushed out to make room for those that are relevant.”
The CEOs nodded. “Will no one rid us of these troublesome has-beens?”