lunedì, febbraio 26, 2007

Kids these days

I suppose everyone feels like they were lucky in the education they got when it comes to matters of taste. But some eavesdropping I couldn't help but do yesterday, since it was carried out on a small gaggle young ladies who hadn't yet learned to modulate their post-pubescent voices in the grocery store queue, convinced me at least parts of my tasty superiority complex are founded on something.

Grocery store queues are the last-ditch effort, the final thrust, the veritable Little Bighorn of consumer temptation fighting back against budgets, diets, and common sense. So that's where they hawk the tabs and yesterday Britney Spears was on the cover of all of them. As far as I can tell (and I can tell pretty far despite having given up gossip pages, since even the BBC has been covering her lately), that's because she shaved her head. So these young ladies were treating themselves to a free read, looking at all the gross pictures and wondering with strident notes of betrayal in their voices what she's on, if Justin can help her, and when she's going to get better.

At first they just annoyed me like most young ladies do these days, with their cakey makeup, gouged pores and processed extensions yanked at a fraction of market cost from the scalp of desperate Moldavians, no doubt. But later I started thinking about the note of betrayal in their voices, and started feeling awfully sorry for them. They were a few years older than my niece, so they would have been impressionable right when Britney Spears was most popular. She was probably some sort of hero to them. In fact, their annoying aesthetic was pure 2003 Britney. What garden path had this woman led them down, they could have asked; what price will we pay for our respect?

So I felt sorry for them, and I felt lucky, because when I was their age it was different. Grunge had been a big force in music and fashion for awhile, and nineties Britpop was aesthetically interesting enough to go on posters and things. Those musicians were visibly and audibly full of heroin, cocaine, alcohol and Ecstasy, and it wasn't particularly surprising when one of them dropped out of the public eye for awhile or even - tragic though it was, and I remember crying for complete strangers back then - died in a more or less active fashion. So I grew up in a pop music environment that made clear pop music heroes were profoundly human; disreputable, angry, mentally unhealthy people who could have ended up dead in a ditch somewhere if they hadn't been musicians, and who sometimes did anyways. People who didn't promote a single fashion or physical aesthetic and who tended to look good despite themselves. It was because of this aesthetic that I could go through highschool wearing Docs and cotton nighties, without makeup and without brushing my head hair or removing my body hear, and fit right in. That was conforming back then. And that's how I'd be dressed right now if I didn't work in a business-casual office.

But more importantly, it meant that when, say, Kurt Cobain killed himself, I was sad but I didn't speculate about what other celebrity could have helped him. When Jarvis Cocker rushed Michael Jackson's twatty showpeice, I didn't wonder what he was on. And when Pearl Jam decided to hamstring their popular exposure by not doing music videos anymore and trying to duck Ticketmaster, I didn't ask myself when they were going to get better. I guess my point, if I have one, is that when I was those girls' age I didn't have to tweeze, diet and extend myself to participate in my heroes' aesthetic to the degree that when those heros had a breakdown, an overdose, or a scalp shave, I didn't feel betrayed or wonder at all what the implications of that event was for me.

It's hard for me to tell if I'm writing out of my ass or not, or if I've just turned into a curmudgeon who thinks pop music these days is hitting new lows because it used to be funny when one the Spice Girls popped out of her dress and now Janet Jackson's pastied nipple can cause legal showdowns. But I think it's a shame, what expectations young girls get stuck with these days.

7 commenti:

Sugarplum ha detto...

American society has become much more religious over the past 10 years. Brittany Spears is being pulled in directions that no hero of mine ever considered. She has to play the whore to get the industry's attention but she has to play the virgin as well because the religious right is so powerful and she was too young to not be a virgin when she became famous. (I bet that has a lot to do with why she got married so people would settle down and leave her putang out of the conversation and allow her to do what she needs to do. Am I giving her too much credit? Yes.)

But we knew our heros were human because they were rockstars and rockstars overdose and don't play virgin. All the pressures that pop stars face to be good role models for young children sets them up as disappointments because they are pop stars and they are likely to overdose in the ditch but all this role model bullshit covers that side of things up so that young people are shocked when their heros act like humans and not like role models.

Teachers are role models. Pop stars and actors are not role models. We need to teach our young people that.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

Maybe the difference between role models and heros? I mean, when Jarvis Cocker rushed that stage, he was my fucking hero. It didn't make me go out and start looking for a stage to rush, but it taught me some abstract lessons about the value of highlighting other people being unbearable twats. Maybe any teaching we do should be about letting people think more abstractly about their heros and not feeling like the day to day events in their lives are a narrative - a minute, exacting narrative.

Sugarplum ha detto...

Good point. But what have pop stars done to deserve being thought of as heros? The Dixie Chicks are taking it from every direction for criticizing the Bush admin but they are hardly pop stars.

And it's a good thing you didn't want to rush out and be Jarvis Cocker. That you were able to appreciate his symbolic act as what it was. But doesn't self-esteem have a lot to do with that?

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

Well, it doesn't take much for someone to be a hero in absolute or moral terms, I guess; just the right blend of aesthetic appeal and talent. Reasonable? No, but a reality.

I don't know about you, but I luuuurved some famous people when I was young who probably had very little to reccommend them in real terms. But that didn't mean, completely lacking in self-esteem though I was, that I wanted to be just like them or that I cared deeply about the minutae of their life, and I don't think that was special or atypical. It's different now, though. We can know so many details about people's lives, and accept an illusion we know them well and that acting like them could be a possibility because we think we know how they act.

It's weird.

Sugarplum ha detto...

It was impossible to know much at all about the people I adored as a teenager. Things have changed.

Melbine ha detto...

I agree with you both a lot. I had my celebrity crushes but all I really knew about these guys and gals was maybe when their birthday was and their favourite kind of ice cream. Whatever little bits they'd give away in interviews with the teeny-bopper magazines. Now it's insane and it's not all the industry's fault - these people are obsessed with being famous. I often think the people that are stuck in the paparazzi chaos brought a lot of it on themselves. There are many celebrities who manage to stay out of the public eye... for young girls these days, I think there's always been that group of girls who was obsessed with diet, image, and popularity. I always feel really badly for them because you can see that somehow their vulnerability's been preyed on. It's a loss of innocence in my mind. You were just too smart for that Mistress. Me too - actually, more too oblivious I think. Us country girls didn't have the money or know-how for makeup and the such.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

Hmm . . . I had something to say about that and then it spiralled out of control and turned into today's post.

But I will say here that while there was a clique of girls in my highschool who went for too much makeup and too much product, they were good, honest sluts who liked to fuck the hockey team. Puck bunnies, we called them. They walked the walk.

There was another clique obsessed with diet, image, and popularity - but in the mid-nineties, those girls, in North Bay, at least, wore bloody track suits and Birks and put their hair in a messy pineapple bun on top of their head - even they got the grunge. We were a lucky generation.

Now, self-conscious young ladies are dressing like sluts and being confused when their role models act like sluts. The mixed messages are really unfair and it's all far too much work.