Monday, June 4, 2012

Moth-Eaten, Slightly Elitist

The Moth is starting to annoy me.

For those of you not in the know, the Moth is a combination open mic, traveling community theatre, and podcast. It is a place where people tell interesting stories from their lives. Some of them are depressing, some of them are uplifting, and some of them are hilarious. Recently, however, I've the Moth has started to bother me. My enjoyment wanes with every listen. I think the time draws nigh that I will drop if from my blogroll and iPod.

Here's the thing: the Moth is secretly incredibly elitist.

Most Moth stories start the same, with some pithy story of life in the sticks, dealing with a workaday job. Moth storytellers talk about being flight attendants and drug addicts, hikers on ordinary hikes. Weird and wonderful and horrible things happen to them, and then comes the conclusion... where smooth-voiced Dan Kennedy (author of Rock On, an office power ballad, learn more at sorry, I've heard that outro way too often) explains that so-and-so the all-night diner waitress is actually a film-making comedian with a book coming out in September.

Almost everyone on the Moth is secretly someone, telling the story of how once, a long, long time ago they used to be no one.

And that's not counting everyone who tells stories of working in fashion or publishing or journalism, straight up and from the beginning. I don't mind them as much. Honestly, I don't mind the stories of people who used to be nobody, either, but their stories cast the flaws in the Moth into sharper relief. As I wrote above, practically everyone on the Moth is a Someone - a rising star of some scene or another - with some brand new media product to shill. No one is nobody. No one is a waitress who's still a waitress, a flight attendant whose still a flight attendant, a drug dealer who's now doing his best to be a good dad.

That's not true.

Once in a while - once every few months or so - the Moth will deign to allow once of the participants of their community storytelling classes to tell a story on the stage. These are the people who are just people, without anything to sell, trying to get by and live their lives.

The thing that bugs me is that this situation - rising media starts telling stories and selling their newest creations is just fine - is in the context of an organization that claims... well, I'll let the Moth tell you what it is:

The Moth is an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. It is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it. At the center of each performance is, of course, the story – and The Moth’s directors work with each storyteller to find, shape and present it.

From the Moth's About page.

You see, nowhere does it say that this is a place where media authors, comedians, TV personalities, and politicians will tell their stories. This is supposed to be a place where people - and by that, I assumed they meant all kinds of people - tell their stories.

So, ultimately, the dishonesty and quiet elitism is starting to annoy me. And the condescension of "special story hour with the little people" is starting to anger me. And the repetitive themes of rising stars telling the tales of their inglory days in the trenches are starting to bore me.

In other words, the Moth is on its way out for me. Where is it for you?


Heidi said...

What Moth?

I guess that says it all.

kindli said...

Hadn't heard of it either.

I'm still working my way through the often soap-opera-esque History of Rome podcast (it's fabulous).

Abigail Hilton said...

I like the Moth. Their stories often leave me feeling more hopeful about life and humanity. They are also very skillfully told.

I do understand what you're saying, but it's not an armature-only contest. I don't think it's surprising that people who have more practice at story-telling often win (and therefore get to be on the podcast). These folks often have some kind of platform. They're trying to make their living at art - a difficult thing to do.

They're rarely celebs I've heard of. Mostly, they're solidly midlist artists. I hope their time on the Moth gives them a leg up.

Now, if I found out that stories weren't true, that would break it for me. But as long as they're true, amazing, and well-told? I don't care if the gal has a book or a podcast or a lemonade stand that she'd like to pimp afterward.