Material Witch?

Lately I’ve been thinking more about what it means to be a celebrity — notably a really famous entertainer.

***

Does anyone remember those live concerts in the late ’80s or early ’90s that Michael Jackson was performing, during which people were regularly hyperventilating and passing out? There were entire wards and fields of people who needed to be resuscitated or given medical treatment because they were experiencing the Michael Jackson phenomenon up close. They just couldn’t handle it: he was really there, in the same spatial location as them, within proximity of their senses, in the flesh.

I think we can all relate to this spectator phenomenon to a lesser degree, although it’s something that (at least for me) fades with age and with (what I call) maturity. Certainly everyone at some point has been so enamored of the work or image of another individual to be shocked by their very physical presence.

Michael Jackson was and is a pop phenomenon, but he is that exclusively. He’s an example of someone whose voluntary will was not behind his success and financial prosperity. Or that is to say, he did not choose his career, but rather that those around him and close to him propelled him into his obscene stardom. This strikes me me as kind of sad; such a lack of control in the direction of one’s life leads to a severely damaged and fragile ego.

I think all of us in prosperous (usually western) cultures also suffer from this “spoiled syndrome” a bit as well, but Michael Jackson is a pinnacle of this disease. He’s like a glass man. He doesn’t know what life is like outside of the spotlight, or that it exists. When he talks about fans or their support, I cannot imagine he has any idea who or what he is referring to. Catered to and surrounded by the attention of the media, his life does not exist otherwise. Such a person has been robbed of a normal life. This is the way of royal families too, and it’s far beyond depressing. It is devoid of personality, choice or worldly substance. It is all appearances and illusions for the public — the very public that imprisons them. It’s smoke and mirrors (there is no one home).

***

What’s notable to me about Madonna is that she seems to have constructed an ego on the basis of becoming successful. She seems to have decided for herself to be famous, to construct her own stage and claw her way onto it. I don’t know her personally, I don’t know if I’d be impressed, and I think her music from the ’90s just sucks in general. But I also think as a pop phenomenon she’s survived in a way a lot of other pop icons have not. Clearly she thrives on the energy of being a public spectacle, but she never dwindles too long in any particular exploit.

One example of this is the way she changed throughout the ’80s. It’s like, she didn’t necessarily project herself as this sex icon initially, but it escalated with her fame. She intentionally created for herself the role of media sex icon. And being an “innovator” in this regard, it happened much more gradually than it did for, say, Christina Aguilera or other modern pop stars (most of whom are interchangeable and indistinguishable from one another). Modern pop stars are expected to sell and objectify their bodies immediately. There’s no build-up anymore. The illusion of their beauty, personality, whatever — it wears thin frighteningly quickly. Did Madonna have a direct influence on this media transgression into our modern sexual idolization?

So, what the hell is my point about Madonna? Well, what the really huge pop stars do is attempt to create a mystery out of themselves and their presence; and it’s a mystery that they often get lost in. When people tell or hear lies for long enough, they start to believe those lies themselves. It’s a cliche, but it’s a true one. Memories aren’t very reliable, the past is always fuzzy and our minds are more malleable than we’d like to admit to ourselves. And sometimes those lies offer convenient excuses for a weak ego. But for a pop star, the press and the public almost always win in breaking the person down, removing their mystery, and exposing them at their weakest — as a vapid, boring or broken person. If this doesn’t happen the person usually leaves the spotlight. With this in mind, it’s kind of interesting that Madonna still manipulates the spotlight, isn’t it?

***

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “is Madonna a witch?” To that I can only answer, she’s certainly exceptional at attracting attention, even from the most skeptical of observers.

Let me discuss further…

How has she stuck it out as an icon? She’s not bad looking, but she’s not some kind of knockout, she’s not that great of a singer (especially not these days) and she doesn’t seem like her opinions on things are particularly deep or insightful. I think her old songs from the first decade of her career are pretty good pop songs, but are decent pop songs enough to be that successful?

Sure, maybe some of it is luck. But I think most of it is Madonna’s ability to conceal herself in her imagery and media manipulation (and surround herself with intelligent publicists who cater to her ideas or share her vision). She’s posed nude, been in shitty movies, made shitty music and yet is still widely accepted (and taken seriously) in a puritanical society like the United States. I think part of this is that she is always doing something new to attract people’s attention away from whatever previous “crazy” thing she did.

Basically, Madonna threw herself into the spotlight and allowed herself no regrets. She doesn’t have a concrete talent that ranks her above anyone else. Instead, she manipulates the spotlight and the media and the common denominator. The public and paparazzi rarely succeed in destroying her or exploiting her any more than she allows them to. At least, at the height of her “controversial” sexual attitudes, she seemed in control of the attention she was receiving.

How far apart is this from Michael Jackson? It’s a completely different realm of existence. They may be the two biggest pop music stars in the last 30 years, but how have the two fared differently? Madonna possessed the insane desire and claimed it for herself, while it would’ve taken Michael Jackson that same desire to fight against his explosive fame and become a normal person. Strange circumstances, indeed…

So…people should take this lesson from Madonna. If you’re going to throw yourself into the spotlight, you have to be so ruthlessly self-adamant that the media cannot destroy you. This is how one builds the empire of sexual prowess. It is not a fun life, and I don’t think Madonna advertises the horrors that have come with it (this is part of the role she has to play, though she does advertise he Kabbalah/black magick games).

But, people are consumed by the media machine relentlessly because they don’t know what it is about. Or they’re merely an instrument of greedy people.

Thoughts?

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~ by chaosrexmachinae on September 8, 2008.

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