Roxanne Tellier – The Eye of the BeHearer

roxanne-dbawis11

MTV, and then Canada’s own Much Music, changed the musical playing field. Whether you loved it or hated it, suddenly being able to SEE musicians, actually playing, dancing, emoting, in living  colour or sepia and in unfortunate eighties fashion choices, and all in the comfort of your own home, impacted on the decades to follow.

Image overruled sound. And we couldn’t tear our eyes away from the spectacle.

In 1981, MTV launched what would become an entirely new way for viewers to decide who would rule the musical world, kicking off with The BugglesVideo killed the Radio Star” video. It did indeed, as MTV transformed listeners into viewers, riding the (new) wave through the tides of grunge, alternative, indie, rap and hip hop.

real world season 1Soon the audience wanted to get in on the fun too. By 1992, MTV was giving egotistical, needy people willing to be humiliated a chance at 15 minutes of fame on reality programs like The Real World. MTV could make or break careers. And the money just kept rolling in.

In some cases, young and cute performers skyrocketed to fame, despite only mediocre talent. Others, not blessed with photogenic looks but possessing phenomenal talent, were pushed aside for not being as pretty as the camera demanded. Musicians, formerly only expected to be presentable, and to have the talent to express an idea that would intrigue a listener, now had to also captivate tackleberrythe viewer’s eyes.

For example, The Payolas were doing well with a moody tune called “Eyes of a Stranger.”  But when the public got a look at the singer, a dead ringer for Police Academy’s Tackleberry, the song lost momentum.

What had once been – wow! That chick/dude can really wail! Became … hmmm… not a bad player..but … ick. We wanted our music and musicians wrapped up in pretty – or at least interesting – packages.

An entire industry grew around the new art form. Aspiring film directors, armed with cheaper equipment and lower budgets, cut their teeth on videos, becoming stars themselves for their innovative ideas. And as videos evolved, becoming not only a necessary component to a musician’s career, but one that generally spared no expense, major directors wanted in  as well. Soon we saw Michael Jackson dancing with zombies, Van Halen’s Diamond Dave showing off his karate moves, porn stars doing cameos in metal offerings, and Aerosmith kicking thru a wall to join RUN-DMC in a genre mashing “Walk This Way.”

In the wake of a new emphasis on perfection, whether natural or achieved through makeup, strategic lighting and copious amounts of Photoshop, the masses rallied around those who made the cut, and elevated these stars to cult paps chasing celebstatus. Paparazzi chased frightened celebs, desperate to catch them off-guard.

Once ordinary people, now elevated to an almost religious status, had to be concerned about their appearance all of the time, inside or outside of their homes, expected to be camera ready at every moment of the day or night.

Meanwhile, our former heroes, the classic, well-respected musicians of the 60’s and 70’s, now also had to compete in this new media. It was no longer enough to appear young and talented – musicians had to become triple and quadruple threats, and they all needed to learn how to act. Some did better than others.

In 1984, a four minute video of Billy Squier flailing about like a dying fish to “Rock Me Tonite” (terribly misdirected by choreographer Kenny Ortega) effectively ruined Squier’s career. The video is generally considered to be the worst video ever made by a major artist and record label.

Just as “video killed the radio star,” it wasn’t long until it began to eat it’s young.By 1994, MC Hammerhad let his cool go commercial in the film “Street Fighter.” This video made for the soundtrack made Hammer, Deion Sanders and Jean Claude Van Dammeall look unhip.

In 2002, Madonna, desperate for attention, decided she was a real actress, damnit! She starred in a terrible film, directed by husband Guy Ritchie, that “Swept Away” her last attempts at acting.

That same year Ozzy Osbourne let MTV into his cushy LA mansion to meet him and his dysfunctional family. Far from being the screaming, bat head biting rocker, and with no dungeons on the premises, The Osbournes sold out the last of Ozzy’smusical credibility. On the plus side, wife Sharon and kids Kelly and Jack got splash back fame from the exposure. But Ozzy had been revealed as a doddering old man, unable to survive without help.

Michael Jackson Black and WhiteElvis may have gotten old and fat, but, without the insatiable scrutiny of the now image obsessed media, still somehow retained a relatively cool image until his death in 1977. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, drifted through the 80’s and 90’s in an ever creepier crusade to become Diana Ross. Too much fame and too much money to burn turned an icon into a sideshow freak right before our eyes.

The trouble with having an ‘image’ to live up to is that, sadly, time has it’s way with us all, eventually. The ordinary people behind the masks of celebrity The+world+we+live+inevolved musically, had children, lost weight or got plumper, and – worst of all – began to age. Aging is not allowed in our society, and if you are famous, it’s actually punishable by civilian law. They’ll ‘citizen’s arrest’ you for failing to meet ever higher expectations.

Widespread use of social media on the Internet further ups the ante. Petty ‘mean girls’ and boys around the globe can and will gleefully point out any perceived failure of their idols to the entire world. Trolls scourvideos and taped performances to find nuances that can be ridiculed.  No one in the public eye is safe, in any field. The ‘shaming’ of celebrities has become a new and twisted game that anyone can play. “Fat shaming,” “old shaming,” “hair shaming,” “fall shaming,” – all grist for the trolls’ mills. Best of all, most trolls, utterly talentless themselves, can hide behind the anonymity of the ‘net.

kelly-clarkson-katie-hopkinsSome dare to expose their malicious visages; Britain’s Katie Hopkins is an outspoken – actually, a very rude – television personality and professional troll, who recently competed in Celebrity Big Brother (UK.) She felt impelled to tweet her thoughts on Kelly Clarkson, America’s Sweetheart since her American Idol days, after watching her performance on the Graham Norton Show.  The 40 year old tweeted: “Jesus, what happened to Kelly Clarkson? Did she eat all of her backing singers? Happily I have wide-screen.”

Apparently the 40 year old mean girl felt it her ‘responsibility to point out to chubsters that they need to get up off their a**, stop costing me money as a taxpayer, and get out there and run a little bit more.”

Kelly’s fans created a Twitter storm when they rushed to her rescue, but Hopkins would have none of their arguments that Kelly was still carrying baby ugly-women-only-slackerweight from last June. She defended herself, saying “That’s not bullying, it’s a great line. I would suggest that when she took to eating for two, she decided to eat for ten. If you can’t find the fun in that, more pity on you… it doesn’t hurt me if I hurt someone’s feelings. Ultimately, if you put yourself out there, if you’re in the media, if you’re in the public eye, then you have to accept what comes your way.”

At 32, and with a decade of solid work behind her, Clarkson no longer feels the pressure to fit the ‘polished pop star’ image demanded by the industry. “You can’t count on your self-worth being tied to someone else.” With no idea of who Hopkins was, she responded, to her credit, with good grace, saying , “She tweeted something nasty about me? That’s because she doesn’t know me. I’m awesome!”

katie hopkins tweetContrast that with Hopkins, who has repeatedly used her Twitter account to trash the working class,TV shopping channels, fake tans, celebrities, and even the Ebola virus. Despite being maligned by others in the media, and even having some of her comments attract the attention of the police, she carries on prattling like a bratty and overly entitled five year child, desperately trying to get mummy’s attention.

Recently, the tide seems to be mercifully turning.When a young British man was shamed on Twitter for having the nerve to ‘dance while fat,’ people around the world took notice.

dancing man

“Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing,” read the post, which was accompanied by two photos of the man, depicting him happy and then humiliated.

Los Angeles activist Cassandra Fairbanks was stunned to see the tweet, photos, and the cruel comments that followed. Fairbanks posted to her Twitter account on March 5 using the hashtag #FindDancingMan to help locate him, and included an invitation for an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles where he could dance his heart out with a group of ladies.About 12 hours later, the man dancingman1was identified as Sean from London. The online campaign resulted in him getting his very own dance party, complete with 2000 women and myriad celebrities. Pharrell Williams, Ellie Goulding, and Andrew W.K. have all offered to perform, while Moby has said he’ll deejay, and the LA Memorial Coliseum has pledged its venue for the big event. More than $40,000 has been raised for the big dance party on a GoFundMe page. Any money not used for the party will be donated to an anti-bullying charity.

That’s heartening, but it’s certainly not the reality overall. Social media gave birth to an anti-social network. By micro-focusing on appearance, the larger picture has gotten lost. I don’t know if there’s any going back. But it does seem that some are willing to give it a try.

“So many I’s, so many selfies, not enough us’s and we’s. Technology has made us more selfish and separate than ever. “

=RT=

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. She has also been a vocalist with many acts, including Tangents, Lady, Performer, Mambo Jimi, and Delta Tango. In 2013 she co-hosted Bob Segarini’s podcast, The Bobcast, and, along with Bobert, will continue to seek out and destroy the people who cancelled ‘Bunheads’.

The Bobcast

2 Responses to “Roxanne Tellier – The Eye of the BeHearer”

  1. Not a truer word was spoken. Well stated! Sad….

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