I have very specific tastes. I only like certain kinds of art or music or books or movies. I prefer things to be done one way over another. And the more stuff I see, the pickier I get.
But - and this is a big BUT - there is always an exception.
For instance, I was never really into rap but I can’t get enough Kendrick Lamar. And I don’t really seek out many musicals but Hamilton is the best thing I’ve ever seen. For every thing I don’t like there is an example that proves me wrong, urging me to rethink my opinions.
The exception isn’t the craft - the exception is the work that goes into it. The exception is the people who fully committed to their craft and worked hard to make it the best it could possibly be.
My favorite artists are the ones who are so full of enthusiasm for what they do that by the time I’m done watching them they make me want to learn more about it. When I watch Neil DeGrasse Tyson most of what he says goes right over my head, but his love for his work is so contagious that it makes me want to dive headfirst into a pile of science textbooks.
It seems to me that you don’t need to cater to the diehard fans of what you do. The musical theater junkies will be camping out for tickets like always and the science nuts will be first in line for the lectures.
It’s not the true fans you have to worry about. If you want to transcend and get people to appreciate your work on a different level, then you have to think about the people who don’t care about what you do at all. Those are the people that matter most.
The best way to get those people to care is to lean into your craft so hard that you can’t be ignored. It doesn’t matter if what you do is silly or serious, cheesy or complicated - it only matters that you work at it so hard that the people who never noticed your genre before can’t look away.
Convincing the cynics to appreciate your work is no easy task. Doing what’s been done before is out of the question. You can’t go halfway, you can’t pander, you can’t patronize. Every ounce of your work has to silently scream “HEY! THIS MATTERS TO ME AND IT SHOULD MATTER TO YOU!”
When I see a cringe-worthy performance the cringe comes from the performer not going far enough. You can sense they want to cringe, too. Instead of leaning into their schtick, they shy away from the moment they’re trying to create. They are ashamed or uncomfortable with what they do and it shows. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Either go down a different path or f*cking OWN IT. Embrace the absurd, own the over-the-top, commit to your choices, and force me to care about what you do. Make me become a fan of something I never knew I liked before. I want to, but you’ve got to show me why I should. And there’s only one way to do that.
You’ve got to lean into it.