Got questions for Little Bobby? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Little Bobby,
I’m a documentary filmmaker who has focused on projects exploring social issues like poverty, political issues affecting indigenous peoples, public health issues in blighted urban areas, etc.
For the last few years I have increasingly thought about doing more personal projects exploring some of the dysfunctional relationships and mental health issues in my family. Kind of like an autobiography or memoir on film. As I have gotten older I feel I have more perspective on these experiences and could make a compelling film about it. But I’m afraid of the reactions of my family, as well as some friends who would be part of the story. I would be careful to treat everyone with compassion but I know some people will be upset even to be talked about in a public film.
How can I manage my desire to express my personal story with respect for my family and friends who are part of it?
—Filmmaker who wants to share my story
This an issue that I have not only faced, again and again, when writing this very column or when writing in social media outlets, but also I have faced this with every album and song that my band and I have written, which have only gotten more personal with time. How to manage it?
You already know compassion is key. In fact, compassionately is the only way to manage it. Are you writing a personal story with anger in your heart? Only the artist can answer what their art means to them, if if means anything at all to them.
This summer, my band Shoulder Voices is releasing a rock opera called The Stuffed Animal Band. We have been working on it for almost five years. One of the reasons for the delay: Towards the end of writing the album, one of our band members (a very troubled young woman) committed suicide. I was personally devastated. Unsure of how to continue, I decided to write a song about it, and then another. I decided that her suicide was not only okay to write about but that it would be the crux of the album.
Briefly, I questioned referring to her suicide in the lyrics. I wondered if it was in bad taste, if I was objectifying her and her death, if maybe I was “using her” without her around to have any say in the matter. But I quickly decided that I needed to express myself, so that I did not end up the same way she ended up: hanging from a noose. I have never been truly suicidal, but I am a human being with deep feelings and when people do not express themselves in healthy ways, bad things happen. They explode, they hurt themselves and others, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. I decided that by incorporating her death into the music, I would not only be helping myself, but I would be honoring her so that her struggle—and tragic end—would never be erased from my life.
My example might seem extreme, but I do not think so. When I look around, I see a culture where many people do not want to deal with our collective emotional shit. We avoid dealing, head on, with parts of life deemed unpleasant—sickness, aging, death, grief, mental illness, childhood trauma, crushing poverty, violence.
Our culture does not even want to deal with sex because… ick! bodily fluids! animal instincts!
I think you should tell your story, exactly the way that you want to tell it. And to do it with compassion. Do it with respect. Are you putting someone down? Or are you relating something to help others? To help the collective “us”? To facilitate healing? We need to start facing our shit right now. From global warming to the way we mistreat each other, en masse, every day. We have a lot a “facing up” to do as a society. Let each one of us try doing it with Love.
—Little Bobby Tucker
I said “I don’t understand. Does this mean yer quitting the band?”
She said “Boy, this is life and death” and then she took her last breath
She was my friend” —Shoulder Voices 2016
Dear Little Bobby,
I am a makeup artist and I have recently learned that my favorite brand of makeup (MAC Cosmetics) is no longer cruelty-free, meaning that they test on animals. Do you have any recommendations for makeup brands that are cruelty-free?
—Animal lover who wants to love makeup
Dear Animal lover,
Wow. After reading your question and extensively investigating this issue, I am very unhappy with MAC Cosmetics and their parent company Estee Lauder. Because of their stance against animal testing, I have used MAC, almost exclusively, for nearly 15 years. Back in 2002, their policy was “not tested on animals” and their packaging clearly and proudly said “cruelty-free” but it seems that you are right, they have begun testing their products on animals!
When the Chinese market opened up in 2006, MAC and Estee Lauder saw dollar signs. They launched themselves into the Chinese market with celebrity-filled celebrations and promotions such hand-painting bodies to look like traditional Chinese dresses—really beautiful stuff until you realize that animals were hurt to test the paint.
MAC’s current statement says, “We do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except where required by law.” Which is their way of blaming Chinese law (which requires animal testing) for their greed and callousness. MAC Cosmetics also claims that since they are “a global company” they must sell in China and therefore… read between the lines… MAC is now tested on animals, and what is worse is that they pay a third party group to do it, in order to satisfy those Chinese laws. What cowardice.
After I read your question, I called the MAC customer help number several times at 1-800-588-0070. One representative told me they did not test on animals and they did not sell their products in China. The next representative told me their products were sold in China, but they were not sure if MAC used any animal testing, they then transferred me to someone at corporate. After being on hold for ALMOST AN HOUR, I was told, “MAC does not conduct animal testing on our products except where required by law.”
I said, “So that means ‘yes,’ to pass Chinese law you test on animals, right?”
The person repeated the company line, “We do not conduct animal testing on our products, except where required by law.” It was like trying to get information from a brick wall.
I am very disappointed in MAC Cosmetics as a company. I have been promoting their products for many years. I was proud that they had taken a stand against animal testing, and I am saddened that they have now decided animal testing is acceptable in exchange for profit.
My research also helped me discover many brands of cosmetics which ARE in fact cruelty-free and which treat our animal cousins with compassion. Such brands include Fairy Girl (100% vegan), Urban Decay (cruelty-free, but their parent company, L’Oreal is NOT), ELF (affordable vegan cosmetics, but some skin care items and brushes are not vegan), Pacifica and MANY more which do NOT test on animals.
And I’ve found numerous online resources such as Logical Harmony, which updates their very extensive lists of cruelty-free brands on a weekly basis. Good luck in whatever you choose, and thank you very much for bringing this to my attention. I am always glad to be informed on the issue of cruelty towards animals.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” —Matthew 25:40