I'm sure I should turn my attention to more important things--of which there are many, including the manifold struggles of the artist in the world (making a living, being taken seriously) and the ongoing issue of who the arts are for (and good God, are they getting too dumb?). But my mind is constantly drawn back to the image of *NSYNC's Joey Fatone, now a serious Broadway act-uh, flopping and skipping around on West 41st Street in front of New York City's Nederlander Theater on Thanksgiving Day. He was performing a duet from Rent, the Lower East Side musical version of La Bohème in which he is currently starring.

Not that the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York isn't already a more or less surreal affair; never has the suspension of disbelief involved so much... floating. But it's all in fun, and no one makes the obvious Charlie Brown-Christmas point that all the balloons are highly commercialized cartoon characters (as is Charlie himself, for that matter), and no one wonders what's happened to Daisy Fuentes, once ever so hot and young, now a sedately twinsetted parade commentator.

I am aware that art and life ought to inhabit separate spheres, but that's not how celebrity culture works, is it? Jennifer Lopez as a maid is still Jennifer Lopez; there is never any doubt that her prospects, both in and outside the narrative, will continue to improve. We are also sophisticated enough to know that musicals, especially around the holidays, are the almost exclusive bailiwick of performers from elsewhere (music, television) looking to gain credibility in stage roles; the producers, we understand, must be thrilled to have a big name on the marquee, to keep the audiences coming.

But an *NSYNC boy as a struggling filmmaker--now that does strain one's credulity.

There was Fatone on Thanksgiving Day, loping around in the empty street with one of his costars, managing to mostly suppress those weird fluttery hand movements that boy bands have made common currency. If ever you have wondered what cognitive dissonance looks like, this is it--a member from one of the most commercially successful bands in the history of recorded time singing a lament about being judged by your possessions.

But then dissonance gave way to something more subtle. Fatone, after all, is no Justin Timberlake. Could it be, then, the lament of the sidelined baritone, the slightly less successful band member, the road--in a way--not taken?

Or maybe I was just hallucinating from too much turkey. Like I said, oddness all ways 'round.


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