As we've seen here (often), one of the things the internet allows us to do is to self-mediate. If I want to present myself as Paris Hilton, it's up to me. I go, girl!
Self-mediation is still virtuous in other media -- check this documentary about 1920s "It Girl" Clara Bow, known for her personality more than her beauty, and praised (especially by her contemporary Louise Brooks) for putting lots of her own "business" into her films; flipping up the tail of a toy dog in one scene, sprawling right across the boss' desk in another:
Though still virtuous in film or television, self-mediation in these big, scripted, collective, centralised media is difficult. Someone makes you up, someone else lights your shot, someone else again wrote the script. There are people responsible for interpreting your physical presence, and they're professionals. That means they mostly make you look like everyone else on TV. Sometimes it means they make you look really bad, too. After all, they don't know your Achilles heels as well as you do, your good and bad points.
Magibon, the vlogging superstar, the semi-silent "it girl" of the roaring Web 2.0ies, recently discovered this to her cost... in Japan.
Earlier this month, Magibon achieved a longstanding ambition -- she visited Japan. She did so at the expense of a television company (which is odd, since for months Magibon has been collecting donations from her YouTube fans to make a trip of her own). The price she had to pay was an appearance in a Japanese television studio, using their lights and angles rather than her own. In other words, Magibon got to see the magic land of her dreams only on condition that she waive the power of her own control over her own image. She got to see the land of magic on the condition of losing some of her own.
The result was a self-mediator's disaster. A Magibon -- absolutely mortified by adolescent body-consciousness, and covering her face with her hands -- emerged who looked quite unlike the It Girl her fans were used to. This Magibon was baggy-eyed, lantern-jawed and tombstone-toothed, a sort of spinster librarian rather than the sylph-like manga sex fairy we knew. Television had transformed the IT-age it girl into plain old Anne Other.
There's a lesson for us all in there. You know me, here, as Momus Hilton, glamour tart, thinking woman's crumpet. But were I ever to appear on Japanese television (and I won't, I promise you I won't) you'd see quite a different me: a 48 year-old Nosferatu with thinning yellow hair and horribly yellow teeth. I'd lose my glamorous art and style press columns, my book and record deals, overnight. The Nick Carrie Bradshaw of postmodern self-mediation would emerge, under the pitiless glare of the studio lights, as a living nightmare: Nick Carrie.
“There are people responsible for interpreting your physical presence, and they're professionals. That means they mostly make you look like everyone else on TV.”
Totally agree. Everyone who works for the media (average age 24) is thinking "How do I do this PROPERLY? I can't be exposed as NOT KNOWING. What is EVERYONE ELSE doing?" Subsequently there hasn't been a television programme, chart hit, radio show, or book released recently that couldn't have come out fifteen years ago.
Same goes for internet dating, I find. Anyone looking up at a raised camera is hiding a double chin, anyone smiling really brightly has jowls like saddlebags, and bleaching light takes 10 years off. It's become the new 'black is slimming': it backfires because other people know the trick. They think "Mandy's wearing black! She must be huuge."
I think you're sexy momus. You look like the love child from the union of David Beckham, David Spade and Tin Tin. And the teeth? British dentistry is one of the few things left for us Yanks to tease y'all about.
Those magibon vids are disurbingly sexy and hypnotic. She is the spitting image of a girl I went to college with nicknamed Little Deb. Who had a crush on me for a change -- yay me!
(I think this VonStroheim is from the same series as the Bow.)
this, and spotting my roommate's girlfriend reading a copy of US magazine this morning with britney spears on the cover beside a screaming headline of "LIVING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS" really makes me question the times we're living in.
I think poor Magi-bon is going to deal with quite a backlash. It's one of the first times that someone's been actually unmade after having become famous for doing nothing, and I think for a lot of people, seeing her ultimately punished for that was really satisfying.
I don't see what the big deal is with her teeth. I thought all celebrities in Japan looked like that. (teeth racism!!!)
agreed. she made the mistake of playing into the hands of our obsession with looks, but to take pleasure in her one small triumph being publicly stripped from her is antisocial at best and incredibly unsettling.
Yes, almost as bad as the phrase I used about myself: "a 48 year-old Nosferatu with thinning yellow hair and horribly yellow teeth". And a muslim trader called out "Hallo pirate!" at me in the market right after that!
that video clip of her tv appearance was unsettling. In her incessant efforts to cover her mouth, she just drew attention to precisely that area. talk about rabbit-caught-in-headlights, I don't think i've ever seen anyone as unprepared for a Tv studio in my life.
clara and louise are particulary interesting as representations of a quirky "gamine" performance that did a total 180 in the 60s. i could talk forever about this, so i'll let youtube do the talking. here's a clip of clara to contrast with another dramatically different "it" girl:
here we have a natural-seeming performance that laughs itself off as contrivance (haha, social mixer)...
but linking this back to your post: as postmodern ideas have permeated even the "itest" of media, notions of beauty, gender, etc. have decentralized (and don't get me wrong, i like that. i like postmodernism, i do i do.) however, in the wake of said decentralization, the camera's seemingly objective gaze becomes all the more questionable; as "texts," people become scrims for all kinds of shadily projected ideals. and needless to say, it doesn't afford one much agency in the construction of his/her image.