Saturday, June 18, 2011

Following your dreams in the modern world

The blogging hiatus has been due to being busy at work and also having been in the USA on a Boston College Irish Institute programme, of which more in the weeks to come. I’ve also been working on Labour in Northern Ireland’s submission to the Refounding Labour review, again to be discussed here in the near future. In the wider world, the Greek economy is collapsing and, at home, this year the Twelfth looks like it’s going to be a humdinger.

So what better subject to blog about than Lady Gaga. I watched the Paul O’Grady special last night in the interests of catching up with this global entertainment phenomenon.

The music is derivative – deliberately so in some cases, I gather from an interesting Rolling Stone interview (not available in full on line) – and her voice is weak compared with, say, Adele. But of course it’s not about the music. The staging of the performances are lavish and, I think, superb, although of course again sometimes derivative. The Factory it ain’t, despite an intriguing reference to Warhol’s studio during the interview (and does this photo remind you of anyone?).

However, the interview left me unsure about just how positive a message Gaga is giving to her Little Monsters about how they might live. Apparently in interviews she often mentions having been bullied at school, and she is well known for her advocacy of LBGT rights. Full marks for the message of being true to yourself and not ashamed of having been born that way.

But less so for the message of the inevitability of fulfilment. With reference to her own experiences, Gaga movingly stated that people need to hold on to their essence and that eventually they would be able to be live a life where they could be themselves, recognised and valued for who they really are.

Now that’s a positive message if it’s interpreted by young people as meaning they should behave with integrity in whatever situation they find themselves – unemployment, that boring or frustrating first job, after the promotion you don’t get, or in other difficult personal circumstances such as being jilted. Not so much if the assumption is that everyone who wants to be a pop star, footballer or other form of ‘celebrity’ is going to make it simply because that’s what they want and that’s where they think they ought to be in life. When Gaga was talking about being yourself, I didn’t get the impression she was talking about getting a steady job in order to pay the mortgage and support your family – but for many people, that’s what integrity comes down to in the end.

The hard truth is that some people never get the opportunity to do what they would really like to in life, due to lack of opportunity or ability, no matter how hard they try. That doesn’t stop them being true to themselves in their personal lives, of course. But a bit more realism about the options available would be nice.


nick said...

What she's saying reminds me of the old cliché that anyone can be the American President. Well, er no, only if they have certain advantages to start with like lots of money, good looks and a power base.

I think the main reason Lady Gaga has done so well is not so much that she has been true to herself but that she has carefully analysed all the things that have made others successful (like Madonna) and studiously imitated them. Rock fame is based on a well-trodden formula.

Rab said...

Hi Jenny,
Good to have you back.

Apologies in advance for the miserabilist interjection from myself but...

The idea that if we hold on to our essence and that we will then eventually be able to be live a life true to ourselves, recognised and valued for who we really are, is just balls. It's the sort of balls that celebrities say in interviews that they believe makes them sound human and empathetic, when really it's a measure of just how out of touch they are with lives of the people who sustain them in the lives they've become accustomed to - namely, fans.

What is our essence? What should we be 'true' to. This kind of rhetoric always sounds to me like an alibi for aggressive individualism.

All the 'successful' people in the world are rich and famous because they were true to themselves. Hmmm.

I would love to be true to myself. But it would get me sacked.

Jenny Muir said...

Nick - totally agree, in fact on reflection even more than when I wrote the post

Rab - I'm still very behind with non-work stuff but thank the Lord June is over for another year. As you say, being true to yourself may be possible for superstars (although I could have done with a bit less of it in U2's Glastonbury performance last night, leather trousers eek) but for most of us we have to grit our teeth and put up with stuff.

As we are in the same line of work, I am now thinking about how exactly I would go out in that blaze of glory....