Putting the I in "Team"
For the latest Lukewarm Takes, I wrote effusively about The Lego Batman Movie. It’s a wonderful movie but its message could not be more standard-issue. It’s yet another story about an arrogant, cocky loner who must learn how to put aside his ego and control freak tendencies so that he can be part of a team.
Considering how our culture deifies the individual and looks askance at co-operation as something disconcertingly akin to socialism, it’s strange how relentlessly kid’s movies push pro-teamwork messages. Then again, we also encourage children to share and adults to relentlessly chase every last dollar as if it were some sort of moral imperative.
Over the course of my two decades in the business, I’ve tried to be a team player. Oh dear Lord have I tried to be a team player. And for stretches at both The A.V Club and The Dissolve, I’ve genuinely felt like part of a team. It was more than that. I felt like I was part of a family, and growing up in a group home, family has always been extraordinarily important to me.
So I tried desperately to impress my surrogate professional families. I wanted to prove to them, and to myself as well, that I was worthy of being part of the team, that I belonged in their makeshift family. There have been moments throughout my career where I felt like I had finally found a family and that is the most wonderful feeling in the world.
But that feeling never lasted. As hard as I tried to make people happy and fit in, I never did. I was perpetually an outlier, a black sheep, a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I was always the odd man out. Some of it had to do with me not being an editor. Instead of seeing me as any kind of a peer, my editors instead seemed to see me more as an affliction, a terrifyingly prolific creator of messy, typo-addled pieces they were cursed with having to make readable and polished.
Because I never had any management or editing jobs, and really just wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote, I think the people in charge tended to see me not as an editor with an important place in the editorial process, but rather as a freelancer who had somehow tricked his way into a staff position and was collecting a salary and benefits undeservedly.
When I was a staff writer, I could never envision not being a salaried employee of a pop culture website. I was terrified that if left to my own devices, I would starve, and that without the safety and security of a steady paycheck and benefits writing for pop culture for a living would prove impossible.
My mind has done a 180 since then. These days I cannot see myself as a staff writer anywhere. In a semi-related turn of events, no one seems interested in hiring me as a staff writer either. I don’t think there’s a place for me in the world of professional pop culture media so I made my own home here at Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place.
My path to self-actualization is a little bit different from that of Lego Batman. He’s a dark, brooding, depressive loner who discovers that he must embrace teamwork and start a makeshift family in order to be happy. I’m a dark, brooding, depressive loner who has discovered through hard-won experience that I must stop trying to embrace teamwork and finally set out on my own, as that seems to be both the preferred and only path for me.
But I’m not entirely alone here. I have a team and a family here in you guys and gals. That is a form of teamwork and family and solidarity that I can embrace. So maybe it’s not a matter of eschewing teamwork altogether. Maybe it’s more a matter of finding the right team, one that helps you achieve your dreams instead of crushing them.
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