That is all the superficial introduction needed to dive right into today’s words on celebrity and consequences, which will start with this question and goes from there.
Are you making a conscious decision to walk into the media shark tank as much as a student who majors in 15th century European philosophy with a minor in forensic psychology, knows and makes a conscious decision, to pursue a pair of fields that have slim and or competitive needs?
Even if one doesn’t know what a frenzy the media and public eye can be, age is not a factor. If you are willing to go into the business of entertaining people, there is no paparazzo in the world who can, without intentionally provoking (and then subsequently deserving punishment), force an artist, comedian, musician, public speaker, dancer or pop singer, to do things that are unbecoming of a decent level of personal decorum and restrained etiquette.
Age and an unexpected lack of maturity doesn’t hold much weight, unless one wants to inadvertently start “class”-ifying specific genres or musical crowds. This would lead to a unfortunate concentration on those old lines of “high or low” art because plenty of musicians are put on track at young ages far below those of the median 15-17 year olds that burst onto the pop/contemporary scene nowadays, all to develop prestigious careers. (The individual desire v. parental provocation into doing such is another animal of ethical discussion entirely.)
Many of these kids and teens are thrust into situations that require just as much, if not more, personal awareness and control, as things like international traditions and customs can play a much bigger role, since things like masterclasses, guest speaking engagements and even meetings with political or public figures in other countries can be part of many non mainstream musicians’ lives and extend past just traveling to a country to play a concert and otherwise keeping to themselves. Take this view, shift it to adults and the “expected/understandable behavior, because being scrutinized is hard” excuse loses even more weight.
Some emerging and quickly rising artists of younger age, who embody both a high level of musical esteem and a high level of public decorum, are the musicians on the roster of Young Concert Artists, a NYC based, non-profit arts organization “dedicated to discovering and launching the careers of exceptional, but unknown, young musicians from all over the world,” as described on their official website. YCA’s artists, who currently encompass a variety of instruments, are each provided with a three fold set of major benefits upon meeting the necessary standards of YCA’s selective auditions. These benefits include: a concert series, artist management (under which career guidance is a specifically targeted element), and, educational activities. Genre focus of YCA aside, the work this organization does, with particular attention paid to the aforementioned career guidance factor, shows that regardless of why any of those young artists is pursuing their career in performance, they do so without bringing down the company by running off the rails, even though they are putting themselves in a position to be publicly scrutinized, artistically critiqued and having to keep to a strict standard of practice. Plus, due to their ages, these musicians could be given the same “lack of maturity” excuse card that any unwinding teen pop idol would be given by at least half the public amidst a hot tabloid story.
Basically, what it comes down to, is this: Existing with or diving into an activity that will encourage an above average level of celebrity in one’s life is a neutrally affected affair that can only go either well or poorly as a result of one’s individual choices.
Of course, in an effort to put forth some fairness, flip things around on the public for a moment and when thinking about some of the “media scandals” for mainstream celebrity musicians that the public “loves to love” and “loves to hate,” when these situations pop up and then blow up overnight, many of these flash-in-the-pan stories are incredibly clear cut with regard to “was this a good decision or bad decision?” Then, on top of that, the “problems worth talking about” are shallow when compared to other gossip inducing topics some artists have had to contend with and respond to, that also prompt a description of “dicey” but, deservedly so.
Justin Bieber taking a piss in a custodial bucket
Valery Gergiev being slammed for his political preferences because of the cross relevance to an ongoing, highly sensitive, social justice conflict.
Before going any further, to again show that this is not about making a pop v. traditional arts stack up (but thus far is just a coincidence in being such), Gergiev could be easily swapped out with someone like Kid Rock, who, in the past, has assertively and openly stated his clearly conservative values. (Simultaneously, Kid Rock is a more flexible individual who will equally take and give credit where and when it is due.)
If all this still isn’t enough, a development on the U.S. political field that took place just yesterday can fit right in the conversation. During a scheduled procedure to put a state-oriented bill (HB286) dealing with sexual abuse prevention, up for a vote, some Utah legislators were forthcoming in discussing their own personal experiences with sexual abuse as children. (Side note: the vote passed second review at a count of 20-8 and is up for final third review, which, at this time of first publishing, is still pending but expected sometime today.) One individual who has been a critical and continual supporter of this movement for more prominent awareness and action is, Deondra Brown, member of the all-piano quintet, The 5 Browns. Brown was one of three women in the family-turned-piano-super group who has opened up about having been sexually abused by her father, and the group’s former manager, Keith Brown. All three of the women siblings have certainly been through an unfair and unfortunate trauma that is of no shallow consequence.
What does this have to do with Justin Bieber visibly relieving himself in a bucket?
Each of the Brown women, along with their brothers, Gregory and Ryan Brown, have also placed and kept themselves in the public spotlight for their music, and, done many a performance for small, large, local and international audiences alike. One can plainly see a genuine problem and source of psychological stress with something like what the Browns have endured. Turn to quick and dirty tabloid-type media and something so serious could easily be used as a scapegoat for erratic behavior, if the Browns exhibited such. The key here is that they do not. No one is with them behind closed doors, 24 hours a day, to be sure, so it would be unrealistic to say they don’t have more stressful days just like everyone does from time to time, that could come from any number of serious or trivial triggers. Pointing out the extremity of this severely negative portion of their lives is only intended as a balance to provide perspective, in terms of where, and how, we place the value of expectations from the “crazed media” and “chatter hungry public,” against the value of individual self-awareness and self control when it comes to the increasingly prevalent scenario of, “John/Jane Doe, the new teenage music sensation.”
Genre, age, A-list, B-list, crazy past or average childhood…none of these things (should) matter where extreme behavior and artistic external presence is concerned. Even though musicians run the gamut of types of public images –all the way up to complete breakdowns– the fact is that they don’t all do that. While everybody’s story is different, precedent of one high profile musician who does not command controversial attention but can retain high fame, is enough to remind everyone that it doesn’t matter whether it is framed as a stereotype or set of circumstances: an excuse is an excuse.
The late professor and author, Randy Pausch said, “You can’t control the cards you’re dealt, just how you play the hand.” This is simultaneously true and false for the purposes of celebrity musicians. You cannot control what people think of you or how they react to you once you become famous but you can control whether you sit down and request a hand in the first place, as well as how much of it you want to put forth and reveal to the world once everyone knows who you are.