Sunday, September 7, 2008

What price fame?

Last night at Frogdancer's party I had a few interesting discussions with people I had not met before, and some with people that I have met. One thing I notice is that if you are at a party with people you work with the topic of conversation often ends up about the work place. I try to avoid it but I fail miserably with it......especially when I haven't been out for about 3 weekends. Seem to have forgotton social etiquette. Not after sympathy - statement of fact.

But this was not what I wanted to mention. One topic of conversation ended up on 'make me a supermodel', 'idol' etc. Someone mentioned that the contestants were asked to do ridiculous things. This was countered by another that the contestants were learning how to conform. I have been thinking about this ever since.

My thoughts have developed the concept to 'what is fame?' My basic answer is that fame is the glorification of someone who fits our concept of normality to a high level. Most people that are worshipped fit the ideal sensationally well. They fit into the 'right' idea.

There are those that make a statement and forge a new concept of the acceptable - and these leaders are my heroes in popular culture. I think of people like Alice Cooper - he developed the idea of the out of control metal/hard rock artist beautifully. Many have followed in his wake.

But if this is not your idea of brilliance I think of Jean Shrimpton - the English Supermodel of the 1960s, who turned up to the Melbourne Cup (1965) without hat, gloves or stockings! Shock. Horror. Gasp. She caused waves of excitement and even hit the front page of the newspapers. I thank her for what she did - she broke the conventions.

So what do the tabloids love more than someone who conforms with the image? Someone who doesn't. Obvious isn't it. We love the scandal of someone breaking all the rules - particularly when they have been following the rules for so long. My belief is that these people always had a rebellious streak in them but were convinced to 'hide' that streak so they could get to the top of public conscientious. The other thought I have is that they grew up in the public eye and have never really let loose, as most teenagers do, so when they do they have money, fame and the photographers to catch it all. It is entertainment! But it is also development of the person's spirit.

What I am not sure of is who develops the 'norm' that we hold everyone up to. Is it imposed or is developed at the ground roots?

Watching shows like 'make me a supermodel' etc, I realise that the norm is developed in a competitive way. "We would like you to drop your personality so that we can impose a generic personality on you. The more you are willing to conform, the more you will impress me (a judge)." The judges are elder folk who have 'made' it in the industry and hold up these ideals of normality for all to rise to. The contestants are, generally, young (in age or spirit) and desperately want to excel. They ingest what is being told/asked of them and then allow that new concept to come out in their chosen avenue of expression. Sometimes the new persona fits well and these people are embraced. Some try and fail. We love the journey of self discovery that they go on. Ultimately we love their downfall.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the chance to 'discover' new talent. The talent show has it's place - but the way it is undertaken makes me worry about self expression. As a performing arts teacher I worry about what sort of society my students are entering into. This is an internal battle that I have. Just thought that I would share it with you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel similarly in that I want to guide my students to express themselves but only while respecting the standard rules set forth by academia. At some point, there is a conflict of interest. How can we ask people to "be yourself," but then require Right Answers from them? Even people who break the mold are still part of the norm, in my opinion. They offer the opposing side that confirms the norm. In other words, without someone there to offer the contrast, the thing itself can't be defined. A variation of a theme (why do I feel like I've said this before on you blog?), if you will.

It's an interesting thought...