The Big Tuna


Meet “The Big Tuna”, a character on the series Face Off inspired by the real life gangster Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo.  As a bit of relief from television re-runs we have been watching…. wait for it…. more re-runs!

Specifically, we have been catching up on past seasons of the series Face Off.  If you don’t get cable or satellite TV and you’re unfamiliar with the network SYFY this is a game show series featuring makeup artists.  There’s not much swearing and it features a bevy of semi-qualified makeup artists challenged to create the most ridiculous characters in a short time.  I enjoy the show simply because of the creativity.  I’m in awe of the fantastical things these (mostly) young artists are able to create.

I didn’t mean to be sarcastic about the comment above that contestants are “mostly qualified” — because some of them have been right out of makeup school, or have never set foot in a professional studio and are entirely self-taught — so seeing a fully stocked professional makeup lab has several times quite astounded them — still, they have put out wonderful, amazing work.   And learned a lot along the way.

Almost as interesting as the contestants and the process of creation that the show lets the novice viewer in on are the judges.  Three industry leaders in makeup are the anchor judges and I have to tell you that as with experts in any field they live in a world of their own creation.

What amazes me the most — and it’s the reason for this post — is the way they can be very adamant about the “RIGHT” way completely made up species are supposed to look.  Werewolves and vampires and angels and demons don’t exist in the real world, but the judges are right there to critique proportion and coloration and technique as if there were a gold standard for the species — as, say, for an AKC registered breed of dog.

I’m not being critical.  It’s good television.  And a lot of folks make very good livings creating TV monsters and the audience has come to expect certain things in their genre movies;  if the genre is going to be successful there have to be ’standards’ — and therein lies the rub.

We live in a world were people want to avoid being judged by their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault when I get caught doing something I shouldn’t be doing.  Absolute standards are shucked aside or rejected.  And yet about things that don’t even exist we want there to be absolute certainty!  It’s truly a strange world out there.

For a while we had been watching episodes of the series House Hunters.  It played at about our bedtime and it was something I could easily fall asleep to while Peggy resisted nodding off until later in the evening.  We set our sleep timer and I rolled over and went to sleep.  But the one thing I learned after just a few episodes is that everyone has a “standard” by which they judge houses.  It might be a standard unique to them, but they are all rigorous in enforcing what they think to be the right way to live upon a house that someone else has lived in.  It’s quite amazing at how judgmental people are of other folks’ style & standards.

What do these two different TV programs have in common?  Now that’s a good question.  But I think there exists a very real commonality.  In both programs the contestants follow through to a final conclusion.  The artists work like dogs, improvising materials and illusion until they have created something that never existed before.  The house hunters narrow down their selection and attempt to remodel their choice so that it meets their standards and they have moved into their new home.  There’s a finality to both.

Is it possible that there’s a metaphor there for life?  I’m writing this on the Monday after the Friday that the Healthcare reform bill was taken off the table.  And people in government are still washing their hands of the whole mess, blaming others, pointing fingers, and wanting the whole thing to go away.  There is no finality.

But they haven’t finished their job yet.

The system we have is flawed and parts of it will implode unless it’s fixed.  The proposed system was a terrible idea, but I don’t think anyone in the nation honestly thinks that either option as they exist are the right thing for the citizens of this country in the long term.  We are stuck because we are a capitalist society and one is faced with the idea reality that you can’t ask insurers to take a loss on pre-existing conditions without some balance in the system; but then neither can you ask the insured to fund the exorbitant pay scale of insurance company executives and the waste in the medical system.  There need to be hard answers to even harder questions; it’s time for some innovation, and creative thinking, and some good hard head banging.

But all we see is threats and bullying and finger pointing and blame.

Our politicians seem to have forgotten that they have a job to do beyond getting elected.  Once elected they are supposed to govern.

If I think back on the seasons of the program Face Off that we have already watched I have to admit that there are some things I’ve tired of.  Season by season some ideas are repeated — not just once, but numerous times.  For example, some artist is always going to want to put horns on something, or create a skull that looks pointed like the John Lithgow’s Bonehead,  or to slather blood all over the place even when blood isn’t necessary to a challenge.  There are always copycats.  That’s the nature of humanity.  Not everyone has great, new ideas.

I remember when we were young the only place you could go for an oil change was to your auto dealer or the neighborhood auto repair shop.  Then one company came up with the idea of the drive in oil change business and in just a few years there were more drive in oil change shops cropping up in old abandoned gas stations than you could shake a stick at.  Gradually, those who provided value and did their job well stayed in business while the ones that wanted too much money for too little service went out of business and now there is a balance.  In the world of business there’s only so much money to go around between so a given number of establishments.

That’s not true in government, any more than it is in art.  The makeup artist is free to dream and fabricate his way down a road that no one else wants to take.  The final design might be horrible, and the artist might not have any idea why no one else likes their design. Government can be the same. Politicians can be just as zoomed in on their own creations as to not see why what they want to do stinks, is not workable, or angers their constituents.  The thing is, in a game show there experts who mentor the contestants, fellow contestants who brainstorm with them, they don’t have to function entirely on their own.  I’m not sure politicians in the year 2017 understand that anymore.  Every one has their idea that they are convinced is the one right way, and no one wants to compromise.

Ya know…. I’ve never seen a real werewolf, nor a real vampire, and the ones that makeup artists create might look really scary.  But the fact of the matter is, a werewolf and a vampire don’t really exist and they don’t have to function in the real world.

Not so for healthcare.  Not so for our crumbling infrastructure. Not so for our problem with drugs, or guns, or immigration, or …. you get the idea.  We have real world problems and a population that’s looking for real world solutions, not make believe monsters.

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2 Comments

  1. Skimming the surface of your post, here — FaceOff is one of the best competition/reality shows I’ve seen. It’s the ONLY one where the contestants actually help each other, rather than sabotaging each other. There’s less drama behind the scenes, and the focus is on true artistry.

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    1. I agree about the quality of FaceOff. It’s one of the few competition shows that I really like I wish I could follow the creation process on a more detailed level. Seeing the little we really get to see only inspires me more. You’re right about the comments in re: helping rather than sabotaging. I think that’s a key issue in the industry. It’s a far more collaborative field than ‘cooking’ or fashion I think. But what do I know. I wasn’t in any of those fields. so it’s must one guy’s opinion.

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