Friday, February 23, 2007

Is It About Writing or Being Worshipped?

In my opinion, too many new authors seem to think it’s about a glamorous life and instant celebrity. I remember the good old high school days, the sports stars, the “rock” stars, the actors. The things that got people attention. You didn’t become Mr. Popular because you aced your English exams. You didn’t become the talk of the school for writing an award-winning story.

You were popular because you scored the winning touchdown, or because you knew how to play a guitar and sing.

And look how it translates over to society. Even the blogs are all over every aspect of Anna Nicole Smith’s death and the ongoing saga. Now it’s Britney, shaving her head, getting a tattoo, in and out of rehab.

I couldn’t have said it better than this, so I won’t even try.

Are our own lives so empty, that we'll fill the void by any means?

Answer: yup.

Michael Richards, aka the beloved, immortal Cosmo Kramer, pulls a similar total disregard for other people stunt, and it's all we can talk about at work for weeks. Oh, sure, he could be the grand marshall of the stupid parade, but at what point do we stop with the "what will they do next" train of thought? Probably never.

Take the story of a young lady known as Britney Spears. She started out with a certain Christina Aguilera in the Mickey Mouse Club way back when the rest of us were glued to the boob tube watching the antics of one O.J. Simpson with rabid interest.
Years later, while Christina basks in the warmth of her sanity, poor Britney is apparently at her wit's end. Having just divorced professional baby maker and part-time rapper Kevin Federline, Brit finds herself spiralling out of control, partying with the likes of Paris Hilton and forgetting such basics as her underwear and morals at home (20 minute pause to Google).

Then, this past weekend, in order to garner even more of the publicity that keeps her alive, Brit -- who shouldn't be around sharp instruments at the best of times -- shaves her head right down to the wood.

None of us are genuinely surprised when just days later she checks into rehab. Rehab must be an acronym for Really Examining Her Awkward Behaviour.

But, we are again fascinated, enamoured if you will, with her every move. I ask again ... Why?
It's like we're the ones addicted and in need of rehab. We don't necessarily want to know, we have to know what the latest is. Gossip has become our drug, and there's no kicking the habit.

So, while Anna Nicole's estate remains unsettled, as does who the father of her five-month-old daughter is, we await further developments.

And as Mel Gibson continues to direct Oscarworthy movies, we wait for him to slip up again.

And, as Michael Richards has apparently left the planet, we await his return.

It's enough to make me wonder about poor Britney. With all the rumours abounding regarding her sanity, I have to ask ... Is she the one who's crazy?

Or are we?

Whose cheese has really slipped off the cracker?

Who has one wheel in the sand?

Are we the ones who are "all hat, no cattle?"

If so, then watch out. The inmates are running the asylum.

I once asked why a group was tailoring all their activities around one person.

“They’re the closest we have to a star” was the answer I got.

Tells you something, doesn’t it? And when it’s a group of writers, well, it tells me something scary. Something I don’t want to find myself sucked into. There’s a real fascination in our culture with building up “heroes” only to tear them down. People love to see an idol fall, and it’s my feeling that this is carrying over to the writing community as well now. A matter of months ago it was ‘pounce on Ian Rankin’ time. Those of us on the lists and at LCC are certainly aware that another author came under unfair attack recently.

In fact, put to it, I can think of a number of scandals from the past year alone. It makes me sad.

Right now, I’m putting my head down to write.

And I’m afraid the week didn’t end on a high note. Kevin was in a car accident this morning - may the car rest in peace. They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…

Well, I hope so.

Until next time… And for now, I'm not sure when that will be.


angie said...

Ah crap! Hope Kevin's okay - car accidents are always freaky. And then there's the whole dealing with repairs and/or getting a new car. Ew.

Happy writing & happier days.

Bill, the Wildcat said...

Sorry to hear about the car accident. Had enough of those within the past few years to know what a nightmare that can be... even when you aren't the one at fault. Hope all will work out well.

And yes, I agree completely about the whole screwed up obsession with celebrity. What baffles me is how easily even I slip into it... even though it irritates me. There's just something perversely reassuring and satisfying in seeing people who are supposedly so "well off" suffer.

I recently saw "Entertainment Tonight" celebrating that it's been on the air for twenty-five years. Mary Hart proudly proclaimed they had defied all those who said there wasn't enough "entertainment news" to make something like that last. My opinion of that milestone isn't quite so charitable.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Kevin is surprisingly okay. If I get around to it I'll post a photo of the driver's side windshield and then you'll know why I say surprising.

Bill, it is GOOD to see you back. I know exactly what you mean. It's easy to get sucked into it - we all see the headlines. And sometimes they make great fodder for discussion. I think what's startling is that, although I almost never watch TV I know who all the "famous" people referred to in that editorial are. And from headlines alone I know all about their shenanigans. And I'm not even interested in them. I wasn't a big Seinfeld fan, I don't care for Britney's stuff, Anna Nicole was an artifical celebrity if ever there was one (no pun intended) and Mel Gibson? I don't watch Mel, I watch movies. In some he does a great job, in others, meh.

As much as I'll take the piss out of myself better than anyone, I either like people or I don't. I'm either impressed by their talent, or I'm not. I do not read every article that comes out about my favourite authors, or every interview. That's why the Rankin fiasco didn't blow up for me until someone else decided to make hay about it - I never read the original interview. I knew about it - I see plenty of links to interviews with him. But I don't read most of them.

The only pictures on my walls are of family. This includes one author I consider family. The idea of pin-up authors is rather disturbing to me. I was at a dinner party recently where we got talking about this, about a scandal from last year that had put the crime fiction community into a tizzy over sexism allegations. One thing someone said was that the author who'd started it sure had gotten themselves known. And that in a few years memories would fade on the context, but that author's name would still be much better known than before they'd done it.

The idea of people running around making reckless (and unsubtantiated) allegations in order to boost their name recognition makes me sick. I'm not ashamed to say I won't profile any such person in Spinetingler. We started it to help talented people build careers, not support people who use others as doormats.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Hey, I'm trying to move into writing to get away from all the groupies--we're in constant demand, us computer programmers.

What I really don't get is why the world could possibly be surprised at teens and people in their early 20s partying hard. I didn't slow down till I hit 30, and I never had a divorce or bucketloads of moolah. Shaving their head is how all girls deal with problems down here in Newtown. :)

Glad to hear Kevin's alright, looking forward to seeing the photos! But send my condolences to the car.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Oh crap.

Glad to hear he's all right. Sorry about the car. Car's are replaceable. People aren't.

Yeah, it's pretty goddamn insane, isn't it? Try living at Ground Zero. The funny thing is how many of us actually hate that stuff. The tattoo parlor Brittney was at got swamped by people, mostly tourists, screwing up the traffic on Ventura Boulevard, a major road through the Valley. We're pretty forgiving, but fuck with our commutes...

James Goodman said...

Ouch! I'm glad Kevin wasn't seriousl injured. Sorry to hear abou the car.

anne frasier said...

adoration is intoxicating and as addictive as crack.

i'm glad kevin is okay!

Vincent said...

I think the size of the celebrity cult gets distorted by the media, who are very much a part of it. No conversations about either Britney or Anna-Nicole in my office. It's like the 'national mourning' that took place when Princess Diana died - certainly a lot of people did turn out in London to pay their respects for the cameras, but what the cameras didn't catch was all the people who didn't much care, which included everyone I knew.

On the photo of the windshield - very impressive and very fortunate it managed to stay intact.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Vincent, I came within an inch of saying it in my post - I think this is primarily something in North American culture. Not to complete exclusion of some people in other parts of the world, but I see a huge difference, in general, in how the Brits carry themselves vs the Americans. I am far more comfortable navigating the British scene than the American. For whatever reason - and we could speculate endlessly here - in my experience the NA culture involves constant reminders of the pecking order and if you aren't important you're irrelevant. In my experience, anyway, when I approach British/European authors about interviews about 80% set something up with me directly, no problem. On the other hand, when I approach NA authors I think it's closer to 60% tell me to talk to their publicist. And the minute doing an interview becomes a great big headache I'll just move on to the next person, because there are a lot of people out there who do want the profile.

Christa M. Miller said...

What surprises me is that no one appears to realize that Britney may be suffering from postpartum depression. This is all the more surprising considering the way the media vilified Tom Cruise for not taking it seriously enough. Pot... kettle...

Glad Kevin is OK, Sandra.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well, Tom hasn't been popular lately, has he? And now it's Britney's turn. That's part of what I mean by building up "heroes" and tearing them down - the press tells what it wants and what it thinks will sell. This isn't about whatever the truth is, it's about the current spin. Give it a month, she'll be a sweetheart again, and then it will be poor Britney, isn't she amazing, finding the courage to put her life together.

There's one thing that can't be refuted in all this - they plaster the people on the front page who'll sell papers...

Lisa Hunter said...

Yes, hope Kevin's okay.

But as for writing versus pop culture, take a look at the New and Upcoming lists of major publishers. Books about Paris, Britney, etc. That's what writer-writers have to compete with.