Sunday, June 28, 2009

Relationships with Celebrities and Social Justice Burn-out

A largely self-reflective post...

The thing is: celebrities, they belong to be a writer, an artist, a musician, or any sort of entertainer, is to give people little shreds of yourself - over, and over, and over again...even if you're putting on an act that has a lot of creators, it's still a document of you, what you said or did or how you moved or how you sounded at a certain time; it doesn't exist without you.

If it works - this process of giving yourself to people - it works only because those pieces of you speak to people: they allow people to project their own meanings, or feelings, or needs, or actual or desired identities, onto you. Every single person who takes up that little shred of your life will end up putting more of themselves than of you into it (because they don't know you, obviously) but what they end up with, in the end, is a version of you: a mental construct, maybe (generously) 5% actual You-the-Person and 95% You-as-Composed-of-Associations-and-Projections, some chimerical weird imaginary friend who somehow carries all of the feelings of solace or joy or excitement that they got from your work, and toward whom they feel all the kinship or gratitude or friendliness anyone would naturally feel toward someone who gave them all this, who gave it over and over, saying, implicitly: for you, for you, this is all for you, I love you. Of course, of course, they care about you. You, the Celebrity; You, the Imaginary Friend. Even if you might not actually be able to stand them. Even if they might not actually be able to stand you. Even if you are nothing like what they imagine.

This is a portion of a piece by Tiger Beatdown in reflection on Michael Jackson's passing. And it's a really good piece, and I highly recommend you read it, but the portion I highlighted is what got me thinking, and it got me thinking on an MJ unrelated note.

I guess I have no way to know if my relationship with celebrity is the same or different from other people's. Judging from the outpouring of fans to 'Cons, the proliferation of fan websites, "Fuck Yeah So-and-So" Tumblrs, etc. I'd say it's the same as others. But I'd forgotten for a bit what the fan obsession was like. I remember now, thanks to Joss Whedon's actors. And that is especially appropriate cuz I think my first ones all revolved around sci-fi (Star Trek: TNG and The X-Files) unless they revolved around music (my longest standing, for well over a decade now; Green Day).

What I'd forgotten is how liberating and yet consuming celebrity obsessions are. Sady calls them an "imaginary friend" and yes, yes, that's exactly what you are. You end up feeling like you have a relationship to these people. You see them on interviews and think well "that's really them, they're not acting". But of course they are. I've known actors. I was a drama geek in high school (backstage techie mostly, but I've acted and sung for audiences too).

There are, in my experience, two kinds of performers. The ones who act with their hearts on their sleeves and are very genuine, and the ones who are people you might never really know. Of course the trick to maintaining a fan base is to seem like you're an open book, even if you're not. And the tricksy ones are very, very, good at that, as a general rule. Still, I think you can pick the more genuine ones out. Going back to Joss Whedon, his works are huge at 'Cons, thus his actors go to them. But not all his actors. I don't think Sarah Michelle Geller ever stepped foot in one. But the ones that are MY imaginary friends, they did and still do go.

Not only that but MY imaginary friends do crazy shit like Tweet their exact location or the name of the bar they're at and the city they're in while at it. There's something reciprocal there. They thrive off of us as much as we do them. Of course, we are a mass of faces to them, they are a singular person to us, and there's a certain amount of dehumanization in that, from a fan perspective. But there's definitely something reciprocal. It's obvious at concerts. The energy that flows back and forth at a good concert, gathering in the crowd, projected to the band, gathered by the band, projected back to the crowd...that's what keeps you dancing long after you want to sit back down, and the same must be true for the people on stage.

OK where the hell am I going with these observations... This work that I do, it's fucking exhausting. And let's be perfectly frank, my aunt's death was fucking exhausting in it's own right, and the circumstances surrounding it are right in line with the fucking darkness we're always wading in.

Renee at Womanist Musings, among MANY others but I recall her post off the top of my head, have talked about allies walking away before... Yeah. At some point in the last two weeks I have hit that wall. I can see how it happens. Like many of the WOC I've read about this sort of thing from though, I don't have a choice, really, whether I keep going or not.

I mean, I guess I do... I could lose myself in the rules of the Kyriarchy again (hell; white and beauty privilege!). I play that game OK. Good enough to get by... But not really. Something always outs me as the deviant I am. But I could melt into the background and try. (And full disclosure, I OF COURSE deserve no fucking cookies for NOT doing so.)

This burn out hit right at the time Can't Stop the Serenity was coming around. Perfect time to take a step back, watch some Firefly and gear up for geek convos galore and sing-a-longs. And this converges with Renee pestering me to take up Twitter (thanks again btw) and my knowing Felicia Day has one and adding her and, hold on, very soon after she tells us Nathan Fillion has joined! And really, rather suddenly I find myself in my first full on celebrity crush in quite a while.

And it's so much know...LIGHT (in more than one way) than delving into the darkness of people's souls (which, let's be honest, is what us social justice types are doing, isn't it? we see some ugly shit, in each other and ourselves and the world at large, and on a regular basis, like EVERY DAY). And it's weirdly fulfilling to indulge in this because...there's that reciprocity. That weird give and take. Because they do, like Sady says, they, these celebrities, give and give and give of themselves, for us, for me. Not just their success rides on them doing so, but, I think, from those I know with the drive to perform, a very primal need compels them too.

Of course, they disappoint us too. I wouldn't have two already in a series of posts on "People I love Who Do Shit I Hate" otherwise. Hell, Nate is in that first post! But it's still a refreshing break. Because you can retreat into your little brain, into your imagination, because, like Sady said, 95% of what these people are to us are our own projections anyway, they are what we want them to be. And our brains are so awesome that it can SEEM very real, like the utter infatuation of falling in love before you REALLY know a person. Similar dynamics at work, I think. And like with falling in love, the more you indulge, the more you WANT to indulge...

So, anyway...I might be in a cycle of re-centering right now, and didn't want to just let myself fade away without saying a thing (if that is in fact what happens which I'm not at all sure of). There has been so much going on in the world, blogging and outside, that I've been putting up a lot of links lately and letting them speak for themselves. I do believe in spreading the good words and works of others. It's a function of ally-hood, imo, to ring to your audience what they might not otherwise see. But things might slow down a bit as I center myself again and perhaps cultivate my specific point of view for this blog a bit more. What I won't do, is clutter this blog with frivolous posts because that's how I'm feeling atm, that's just not what I'm doing here. But if random pictures of art and cool quotes and good looking celebrity men sound entertaining, check out my Tumblr; Rags 'N' Bones.

But you know, probably I just need to come up for breath for a minute, and will be right back to it tomorrow...