Note: This was written in response to a collaboration with Joel Stein of TIME Magazine. More details can be found here.
When TIME posted the magazine assignment to hitRECord, I was, oddly enough, not at my computer. Instead, I was on my annual vacation to a YMCA family camp, where one of the nightly activities was, as always, a movie night. The adult movie was Inception.
“I thought you liked Inception,” my mom said to me as I griped and groaned.
I do like Inception. I like it quite a lot. But it has Joseph Gordon-Levitt in it (or, as my parents refer to him, “that famous guy who sometimes likes the stuff you put online”), and I didn’t really feel like watching something with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a famous guy who looks dapper in suits in a way that makes me nervous. Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears on red carpets and Saturday Night Live, he shows up in fashion editorials and on all my favorite pop culture gossip blogs. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is not a normal human being, he is one of the elite and terrifyingly attractive demigods that populate my entertainment universe. And in my head, he has nothing to do with Joe, my normal-looking, t-shirt and mismatched sock-wearing, slightly pretentious sort-of boss.
I like Joe, My Kind-Of Boss. He’s dedicated and passionate about the work he does. He’s not the best boss I’ve ever had, but he’s far from the worst. My main concern when it comes to Joe is the same one I’ve had with every single boss I’ve worked for, which is balancing my respect for them and the work they do with my natural tendency to try and subvert any sort of authority I encounter.
Facing The Joe Dichotomy in my day-to-day life is something I attempt to avoid as much as possible. Cognitive dissonance is never comfortable. It’s even less comfortable when you realize that Joe Your Kind-Of Boss is also that famous dude. You may know him in a way that’s unusual, even in today’s world of celebrity twitters that share far too much information. You may know him because you’ve worked with him, even if it was a few degrees removed. You’ve shared your artistic ideas and passions and listened to his. In a way, the way you know him (or anyone on hitRECord) is more personal than people you may have known for years, because there’s nothing more deeply intimate than creating something with somebody else. And in that sense, Joe is just Joe. At the same time, he’s still Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and you don’t really know him at all.
It’s always a depressing thought, realizing that you don’t occupy the same place in someone’s universe that they occupy in yours. It’s way too depressing to think about on vacation.
“I’m just not in the mood for Inception,” I told my mom, and we left it at that.