Culture

Knowing Me, Knowing You

Zeitgeisters,

I was watching AUSTRALIAN IDOL with Miss Raspberry Beret. We were disagreeing about IDOL judge Marcia Hines. I was saying, “Why does everyone give Marcia a hard time – look she’s got tears now that whathisname is out of the comp.” Miss RB said Marcia always gets tears. I pointed out that this is exactly the kind of emotion that she watches reality television for. In fact I could imagine Miss RB reacting in exactly that way if she was in Marcia’s place. Miss RB pronounced Marcia to be “the same” show after show and I think perhaps she said, “safe” to boot. Perhaps the neologism “same-f” will cover it.

The great thing about celebrity culture is that we feel free to make pronouncements about the people on screen despite having the most mediated, contrived, manipulated acquaintanceship with them. In RL (The Tract recognises this vintage geek speak for Real Life) we don’t presume to know people so with so little contact.

For example, I see Ravi the Console Operator down at Dingo Fuel about once or twice a week. We sometimes chat about his life for ten minutes, but I would never presume to understand his inner workings. Yet many of us feel qualified to discuss the motivations and psychology of Paris, Lindsay, Brad, Anjelina, Tom, Katie and Britney (as occurred in this very blog three weeks ago).

This is the thing that some people hate about a certain strand of ‘reality’ television. The obsession with the minutiae of emotions from the subjects in front of the lens. Whether they are celebrities, judges, contestants, participants in a fly-on-the-wall docco – these people and their heavily edited (sometimes scripted) reactions to stimuli are the very thing that feeds a certain part of the audience.

These reactions then become grist to the media mill. Tom Cruise jumps on a couch declaring his love for his bride-to-be on OPRAH and within minutes its on-line; within hours its all over television and within days it occupies column inches in newspapers and celebrity magazines.

I’m focussed on the couch thing, because for Tom Cruise, a virtually bullet-proof star for many years, it represented a kind of tipping point in his Celebrity Approval Rating. The negative Scientology stories had begun to attach to him, especially after it was perceived that he was unsympathetic about post-natal depression. True or not, that’s what some people thought. His possibly spontaneous reaction on OPRAH took him from a star who was slightly on the wane and flipped his persona upsidedown.

Within days of the media mill grinding away, Tom Cruise’s reputation was now that of a controlling religious fanatic who had an iron grip over every aspect of his life and was brain-washing his much younger bride. We knew the truth. It was the culmination of millions of tiny moments (heavily-edited, mostly-scripted). After two decades of carefully watching Gen X’s Alpha Yuppie in film after film; hearing rumours about a star who never biologically fathered his own children; reading gossip about how he conducted himself on film sets – e.g. the crew was forbidden to make eye contact with him on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2. After all that, we had his measure.

He jumped on that couch and we knew the truth..

Until one day, after time passes and we gather more information and we decide that Tom is due a comeback. We’re fickle, see.

Personally, I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise. And I, too, am under the delusion that I know the man. Just like I think I know Marcia Hines because I remember how she used to be Queen of Pop 1976-78 and she sang “You (There’s something very special about you)” for about, oh, thirty years. And she used to be the “Thank you Daryl and Ossie” audio sample that the unseen Murray would play on HEY HEY IT’S SATURDAY. And she’s Deni’s mother and yeah, she sang “Something’s Missing (In My Life)“.

Come on, we’re talking Marcia here. So when I defend her against charges of being ‘same’f’ I am doing it because I suffer under the delusion that I know her, because she has been a fixture of Australian show business since I was a child. There has always been a Marcia Hines. Of course I don’t actually know her from Adam or from Mary Magdalene whom she played in the Harry M Miller – Jim Sharman Production of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1973. But I kind of know her, even though clearly I really don’t.

So I think we can agree that we’re a planet of weird monkeys who love these people or hate them based on the least reliable acquaintanceship possible. Now, if we can only get George W. to jump up and down on a couch on the OPRAH show…

Elevate the Insignificant,

Mr Trivia

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