What we see in their individual projects and in their collaborative efforts is an insatiable desire to seek out new and interesting opportunities for artistic production. While they both have benefited immensely from their financial successes, they also faced their share of failures and continued in a dogged pursuit of purpose apart from monetary windfalls. And by remaining diligently focused on production, rather than compensation, some of the best work of the past 30 years has been the result.
The film is also a useful analysis of the intersection between art and free markets. As I've mentioned previously, my particular focus in the field of literature is how it relates to economics. Many people believe corporations (or other large producers) entice customers and coerce them to buy products they never knew they wanted or needed, thus strengthening the power of big business and keeping laborers and buyers beholden to such production and in a lower class. This is essentially the Marxist perspective, which flourishes pathologically in most public university English departments. While this view of market production is sometimes the case, it ignores the tremendous power of consumers. The public always has the most power.
The Defiant Ones is remarkably explicit in demonstrating the interests of consumers in shaping production. Dre and Iovine (and other artists and business leaders) repeatedly discuss how if listeners don't like the music you're making, you will definitely fail, and they all have at various points. Creators are entrepreneurs who are never sure if their risk will pan out. Creators must serve the customers. Dre's mother, at one point in the film, describes asking her son why he uses such vulgar language in his raps when he doesn't normally talk that way. Dre responds, because that's what the people want to hear. Dre also says, it doesn't matter how hard you work in the studio; if people don't dig it, it doesn't matter. And when the public wanted streaming music instead of cds, Iovine worked with Steve Jobs and Apple to develop a content delivery service to satisfy them. These are just a few of many examples illustrated in the film. Artists must push boundaries and offer experimental work, but if no one likes it and perpetuates its proliferation, it disappears. The free market is infinitely powerful, and these two geniuses have used it in a way that should inspire people in not only creative industries, but all areas of production.
In case you missed The Defiant Ones, go to HBO Go or OnDemand and check it out.