Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Everyone wants to be naked and famous.

I got a post-card in my mail-slot at work today for some sort of drama camp being held at my employing university. It looks like it's for middle-school or high-school aged kids, and is designed to aloow them to try out their acting chops in an environment other than the annual Christmas Pageant (I, myself, am a three-time veteran narrator of the Christmas Pageant. I was not allowed to narrate anymore after I flubbed the phrase "Prince of Peace" during the horrid production of "The Christmas Alphabet". There are a lot of letters after P, and X wasn't even included, so it wasn't much of a play. But I sure saw those angry stares from the parents when I screwed up "Prince of Peace". Which made me start laughing. Which made my brother start laughing. Which made Todd start laughing. Which didn't help with the angry stares. And I thought Christmas was supposed to be merry...).

At any rate, the post card shows about five kids of varying ethnicities pulled from some pay-per-photo website. They might be singing. They might be yelling. I can't tell. I kind of don't like kids, so I didn't pay too much attention. What caught my eye was the phrase, "Where every child is a star!" Parents: That is physically impossible. Not every child is a star. The world if full of us chorus type people. And if your kid stinks, your kid stinks. furthermore, Parents: just because your kid is an obnoxious lout, doesn't make them the next Katherine Hepburn. Trust me. And, no... there's no such thing as precociousness. It's almost invariably obnoxiousness through the filter of parent's doting eyes. And then it becomes obnoxiousness which receives positive reinforcement, making it all the worse for the chorus kids.

Can little kids be good actors? Sure. I guess. And so can chimps and dogs. Even Dolphins can act, if you've seen Flipper.

But the point is, not EVERY child is going to be a star. A lot of kids will go to camp and end up way back in the chorus, or play "shopkeep #5" in an atrocious rendition of Hello, Dolly! (I am actually reminded of a former co-worker of mine who told me her 5th grade class performed MacBeth. I said "God, that must have been awful for your parents!" and she said "No, we were really good." To which I said "You were 10. Whether you knew it or not, the best you could do is memorize your lines." To which she insisted "well, we were in the gifted class." To which I said "Weren't we all. It sounds like a freaking nightmare. I pity your parents." To which she said "Well, kids at my school were probably smarter than at your school. This was in Philadelphia." Which pretty much went against everything I ever knew about Philadelphia, but I let it drop.)

Now there's nothing wrong with kids doing drama, or adults doing drama. And I don't want that confusion to play out here. But the point is: iWhere Every Child Is a Star!

Which got me thinking about Reality TV. It's fairly easy to see the connection and if you see where I'm going, stop reading now. Reality TV is the long-awaited dream of all of us untalented chorus people. It's the final resting place of the morbidly un-cast to be famous for being famous, to let dignity and due process fly to the wind. It casts off any preconceptions about skill, or working for years before getting a break, or having talent. It's your chance to fulfill the highschool popularity contest of being universally known and loved just for existing.

But, like everything else, this stardom is fleeting. Just the length of the season of the show, and then someone even nutsier comes along on a show you never heard of before. But by then you've got an agent, you've ditched your girlfriend and moved to LA to have a go at making it in the movies (which, honestly... you know jack-shit about...). You get a role in a commercial playing a pre-scripted version of yourself (who is kind of an ass, but it's hyperbole for TV, right...?) and then... VH1 calls to ask you about how bitter you are because you're not in the next Spielberg picture the way you hoped... and can they put you on camera to talk about it? Well, says you agent, it would be good for your exposure (which is limited to the local bar right now). So, yeah, go ahead. 15% of blood money is better than 15% of nothing.

And forget about the kids who go to LA and are starring in movies like "The Sopornos 18" a year or two of bad decision making after their arrival. Or the sea of people who don't happen to have fathers and mothers who can get them a job... Or the demeaning role of "chubby girl #2" or the best story they have is that it turns out Alan Thicke can be a real moody bastard on set...

We want our kids to be famous. We want them to be known and harassed and stalked and photographed and adored... screw it if their only skill is showing their teeth when they smile...

And if they do become a star, they decide you abused them and sue you for all you've got once they turn twenty-one and meet a coke-head stripper looking for a handout. Hell, if the story is horrific enough, you can get on VH1 and talk about with out without a 15% representation fee. And, hey... that makes you semi-famous, right..?

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