The One In Which I Channel Will McAvoy

Every human being has a value beyond money.  The belief in that concept is what tells me I may be living out of my time.  Almost everything in our pop culture seems to break people down into commodities.

You have someone like Darren Rovell whose job is, apparently, to break down everything an athlete does to tell you how much money it is worth.  You have actors/musicians who live in this strange reality where everything they do is worth page hits and magazine sales.  If you include reality shows in this, it now makes it possible for “normal” people to achieve the same level of “success” by becoming a brand.

That word disgusts me when applied to actual flesh and blood human beings.  Rovell always talks about athletes as brands.  Actors/musicians who want a certain level of fame do things in public that accentuate their brand.  The nitwits that go on shows like MTVs The Challenge are always conscious of their brand in terms of staying culturally relevant.

For many of these people (particularly the denizens of reality television) the fame they get from being a brand on television replaces their own self-respect.  A person wanting to watch them even in their worst moments is mistaken for that person loving them.

Human beings are not brands.  We are not commodities to be traded like pork bellies.  The idea that attention is the same as adulation is the same as love is twisted and wrong.  This is what I mean by living outside of my time.  Our culture as a whole seems to have accepted both of these things as second nature to life.

There seems to be a whole section of our culture that only sees human beings as entertainment delivery systems.  This part of our society doesn’t see them as flesh and blood.  They are only there to entertain us and that includes anything that happens in their lives.  There are two tracks to this: sports and entertainment.

In sports at some point you must eventually show you can play.  In that sense it is a little less forgiving.  However, once it is established you can’t play, you are forgotten and the culture moves on.  We have no more use for you because there is no more stage for you to perform on unless you were once great and still have some sideshow freak value (hello, Dennis Rodman).

Harrison Barnes by all rights seems like a good young man.  He has the potential to be a great NBA player and, for me as UNC alumni, he was (for the most part) a joy to watch in college.   However, almost from the moment he signed his letter of intent (I will rage against these in a post after the tournament) he seemed to be as concerned with his brand as his actual play on the basketball court.  Advice to future professional athletes: Become at least competent at your sport at the professional level before you create your own logo.

Entertainment is different in that the shelf life of talent is longer than in sports.  That means you will get more chances.  Usually, right up until the point where you OD or kill yourself.  Someone somewhere will always find a use for you.  There are always movies and television shows being made somewhere at some level.

Lindsay Lohan is our current cautionary tale of talent wasted because of excess and no guidance.  I hope her story takes a Robert Downey Jr. turn and doesn’t end tragically.  As many chances as Robert Downey received he also got sent to jail a few times before it clicked into place for him.  So far, all Lohan has gotten is excuses and chances.  If it ends in tragedy for her our hands are at least a little bloody.  We almost encourage this outrageous behavior by treating it as entertainment as much as any of the movies she has been in that float across our screens.

We use these people up like husks and throw them away.  We watch them at the height of their powers and we keep watching them as they go all the way down the rabbit hole.  If someone young and pretty dies by overdose or via their own hand, we will have the sad montage on E! or CNN where they will speak of how tragic the death of this young and talented person is, then they will move on to the next mess of a human trying to hold on to fame they replaced their self-respect with years ago.

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2 Responses to “The One In Which I Channel Will McAvoy”

  1. John Ogburn Says:

    I always enjoy your posts, Ryan. Keep them coming.

    Cheers,

    John

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