Sunday, January 19, 2014

Miley Cyrus: Does she have a choice?

Did the girl shape her celebrity world, or did the celebrity world shape the girl?

The celebrity subculture sells the entertainment products of movies and shows and 'reality reporting' about celebrity lives.

It's a fascinating world.  We do know it's largely lies and sensational misrepresentation, but it makes for popular reality shows and commentary. Or perhaps it's more like a train wreck from which we can't turn away.

We call them 'reality shows' knowing full well that there's nothing real about the show or the story line. It's exaggerated for marketability and continually reshaped according to public interest.

So by and large, the presentation of a popular celebrity is staged every step of the way, not real. Even the 'real' parts are staged.  There is no objective reporting; it's always being played.

For every celebrity, there are a million adoring fans, more or less, and handler-agents who push hard. The process is formative, the celebrity responds according to the will of the fans and handlers. Or not, some of them.

Celebrities who would have a meaningful life face a difficult challenge. The young, lacking experience, are particularly vulnerable and are swept along with little thought for the cost. Those who would live a life of genuine relationships and thoughtful choice of priorities and values must fight for the chance.

From a fan's point of view, the more spectacular and gritty the story, the better. The more scandalous and talk-show worthy, the better we like it, right?

From a father's point of view, it's mostly just heart-breaking. A father knows when his kid is following popularity and attention.  A father knows the regret his child will face when their shallowly lived years are seen from the other side. It is tragic to see a young person spending the years of their life doing at the behest of another that which has no value, no virtue, no worth at all.

It is the same, perhaps, whether the child is a small town high-schooler or an upper-classer in Beverly Hills. There are always hard choices to make.

Does Miley have a choice? Sure she does.  We do too, but the competition is strong for the substance of all our lives.  We can choose the path that pays the most, that generates the most attention, the most likely venue for political success ...

Or we can do the hard work, discovering what matters, and then choose a path that builds on that foundation. There's a difference, isn't there.  Parents have a stake in the process as well.

From a cultural context, the modern celebrity world is much like the Roman coliseum.  It's the venue from which the masses are entertained by the few, most of whom pay dearly with no meaningful return for their effort.

The exploitation of celebrity is a multibillion dollar industry whose purpose has no beneficial element. Sometimes we wonder why more conservative cultures look at us in disapproval.  This, perhaps, is one reason.  

P.S. I recall a drop-dead gorgeous young lady whom we had to let go. She'd been a 'prom queen, most beautiful' type in school; super popular, and high school culture taught her to play on her attractiveness for acceptance. Unfortunately, in the professional world it’s performance and skill that count. She'd schmoozed her way through the first couple of years but hadn't applied herself to skill development. Perhaps she didn't know she needed to. I don't think she understood her dismissal with any clarity, and I've often wondered how she did in later years. And sometimes I wonder if the play for popularity/celebrity isn't just a stunted life with missing pieces.