Sunday, February 8, 2009

Celebrity Feuds...

We have current news cycles of alleged celebrity feuds, Beyonce and Etta James, Hilary Duff and Faye Dunaway, Ashley Judd and Governor Sarah Palin, Beyonce and Aretha Franklin and more to come I'm sure. It makes for great news stories, delicious gossip sound bites and the typical "women clawing at each other" response.

I believe everyone should express sentiments with a level of mutual respect, even though, disagreeing. Faye Dunaway could have better chosen her words at the dismay of producers choosing Hilary Duff to revisit the role that made her a star, "Bonnie Parker" in the film Bonnie and Clyde. I agree, I wish they had chosen a stronger actress, seasoned, a Reese Witherspoon because this is one of my personal film favorites. But, the bottom line is at the bottom of many decisions in the entertainment industry nowadays. Name and brand recognition overrides artistry in most instances. Hilary Duff has a huge fan base and will enlighten many to a film and actress they didn't know, the illustrious Faye Dunaway and cult film classic. I understand Dunaway's angst and the frustration with today's pop culture, the bar has been greatly lowered and mediocrity is well accepted. Acting is such a pure art form and it's disheartening to see great roles go to marginal actors, especially, for women, when there aren't as many good ones coming through Hollywood. Ms. Dunaway could have said the same thing, but with more consideration of Ms. Duff. Hilary could have saved the age comment, but she was striking out at what she thought was a sore spot, something undeniable in both their cases. Faye Dunaway isn't 20 years old with the beauty of her youth, even though, she's aged very well and Duff isn't a very commanding actress at this point in her career. Still, today's young stars didn't build this current marketing paradigm. Everything is about marketing (selling something) and producers want to generate lucrative box office revenues. This is a business decision and not about art, unfortunately, because there's room for both, i.e. "The Way We Were," "Lady Sings The Blues," "Bonnie and Clyde," "Ray," "The Secret Life of Bees" Rita Hayworth and Doris Day Films and the list goes on. I hope Hilary Duff does a great job and surprise us all, do I actually think she will, dunno.

Etta James not being asked to sing her signature song, not that she wrote it or was the first to perform "At Last" should have been given the honor in my opinion. It was indeed an oversight of the inaugural committee and the Obamas. But, it's not just that simple, the rights to the airing of the Neighborhood Ball were sold to the ABC Network, a Disney Company and I'm sure Beyonce's placement was negotiated. The Knowles have deep pockets, immense influence and like it or not, Beyonce is still a very hot commodity. With her legions of haters and fans, Beyonce generates the same mixed feelings as a "Diana Ross." She's a marketing machine, a brand and many companies and individuals are invested in her being successful, from product companies with whom she has lucrative endorsement deals to her record label, concert promoters to advertisers, editorial managers, media buyers and employees both hers and others. She did a great job, but I would have love to have seen Etta James stand on that stage. A woman who helped to break down barriers and overcome immense adversities and is still here to talk about it. Sometimes, we're too youth oriented, when that time is fleeting, this makes our society so disposable.

I commend Ashley Judd for not quietly sitting by on the slaughtering of wolves in Alaska. I understand how these wild packs may be affecting other wildlife, but we have to find a more humane way of dealing with the problem. Kudos to Ms. Judd for sounding off, this is America and one of the rights (Free Speech) that makes us great!

Some feel these feuds in regard to Beyonce and Hilary is about older women feeling threatened and ousted or even bitter of these younger women's beauty and success. I don't think this is the case for most older women in reference to younger women. This is always the depiction for women and when men disagree or battle, they're not written off as being bitter and insecure. There has been a changing of the guards and today's culture seems so trite, everything watered down and substance gone in exchange for numbers, rankings, images, super stardom given overnight with not much left to achieve. Younger women as well as older women struggle. Beyonce and Hilary are most definitely in the hot seat, "how do you stay relevant when you've experienced pinnacles of success that used to take much longer if at all. When you've climbed the tallest of mountains, how do you keep finding mountains to climb? How can you call it quits in your late 20s or even 30s. So artists overexpose themselves out of fear of the phone not ringing off the hook and with this fear comes shrewdness and manipulation or the opposite, openness and sharing through goodwill efforts and foundations. They find a purpose bigger than themselves while still being great artists. But, when shrewdness and manipulation reigns, what we see isn't always nice or fair. The public is forced to ingest seemingly infinite images and media like it not, because brands are powerful marketing machines. Some do it better than others, with the Internet, we have a thousand times the media than before.

It's a unsettling to see all the celebrity worship help perpetuate mediocre music quality and actors who can't act well because it's all about physical images and not substance. Why seeing a role like "Bonnie Parker" going to a former Disney star who hasn't wowed as an adult actress is disappointing. Older stars and celebrities know we can have both, it's not either or. It's what we have evolved into as a society. Instant gratification, marginal promoted as excellence and many people not knowing the difference and those who do feeling helpless to affect change. This is what I think older actresses and singers feel, the quality is gone. Even with the record companies' dismal sales, they can't turn it around overnight, they're struggling to find a way. When the business has been run by men in suits, who know how to crunch numbers and artist development buried alive, a new marketing paradigm is needed, by people who understand music and artists and producers casting good actors in plum roles and celebrities and idols. People are hungry for high quality entertainment and seeing the downfall isn't healthy for us! Goods songs inspire, fill voids, create wonderful memories; classic films can move and warm our hearts for decades.

It's not about jealousy for most older women, of course, you have some stuck in adolescence with a "wouldn't couldn't shouldn't" syndrome, feeling "youth is wasted on the young." But, most women realize they wouldn't be who they are today and anyway, who wants to have to learn all the lessons all over since evolution is a part life and inescapable. You're going to regret, but most women are happy to have lived the goodness they've experienced along with the unpleasant. We all have our time in the sun to be twenty-something and it's an exciting yet difficult time. Oddly enough, this is only a concern for women and this says to me that we shouldn't buy into ageism whether 19 or 90. If you're happy you're successful and happiness eludes the masses, rich or poor. Stop looking at others' lot and enjoy your life. Remember, women are beautiful at any age, true beauty, as cliched as it sounds, is from inside out!

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