Without a legacy, who are we?

Maybe a true legacy doesn’t need to be sought out

‘Music lasts. And paintings last. And poetry lasts.’

This was the drive behind Brendan Gleeson’s character in The Banshees of Inisherin. A man who wanted to leave a legacy at any cost. Great movies are littered with stories of people whose motivation is to be remembered, especially in the world of creativity.

So, why is this obsession so all-consuming, and does this go to the heart of why we create? In the Pixar film Coco (2017), once people in the afterlife have been forgotten they simply fade away. And who wants that? It makes our lives seam meaningless, ephemeral, so fragile that they are simply lost in the mist of time. Too many of us yearn to prove that we were here, and that we made a difference. 

So, we first have to ask, what is a legacy about? Because it isn’t about you right now, it’s about a hypothetical future where somehow out of the billions of people on the planet… you are placed in the history books. What if we didn’t have this pressure to make everything exceptional and historically long-lasting? What if we only created for ourselves? Because creativity is personal. It’s the external representation of your internal thoughts, something that is uniquely you.

However, a legacy is anything but personal

It’s creating for the masses. Creating something that enough people will relate to, and hold onto long after you’ve gone. In The Dark Knight Rises (2012) we see a man who is desperate to protect what he has created, showing the ultimate fragility of a legacy; that what we seek to create can be twisted and turned away from our original purpose. Because it doesn’t belong to us, once sent out into the world; it’s now owned by other people who can use it however they wish.

But there are people out there who don’t do, to be. They create for another purpose, to simply create. In Amazon’s show Daisy Jones & The Six (2023), the titular character journeys to Greece and finds herself amongst artists who refuse to create for others. Ultimately, she decides to choose fame and the promise of a legacy, but the idea of living and creating just in the moment, just for a second, appeals.

Perhaps it’s the eternal nature of the word legacy that’s so disorientating. Maybe then a true legacy doesn’t need to be sought out, but could just be something that happens by accident: like simply writing something that inspires someone to be braver. Composing a song and making someone think ‘I want to do this too!’ Or directing a small indie film that turns out to be the next Cannes winner. Who knows unless you just try?

Ultimately, we could all just take a lesson from Pádraic Súilleabháin in The Banshees of Inisherin and aim to be remembered for just… ‘being nice.’

Featured image: A scene from Coco (2017) / Disney Pixar

Lucy Elder, Senior Copywriter, TBWA\RAAD

Lucy is a global citizen having lived and worked in different corners of the world. She is currently based in Dubai working as a Senior Copywriter at TBWA\RAAD. With a passion for captivating stories, Lucy brings a unique international perspective to her work, creating compelling content that resonates with audiences

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