Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Harry Styles and Blanche Dubois...and what it has to do with you

Abby is a junior at Peddie, currently reading A Streetcar Named Desire in her AP English class. Here, she makes connections between one of the main characters - Blanche - pop culture, and a recent chapel talk by Science teacher Jim Harris.
“Na na na na na na na”
-  One Direction in Steal My Girl, What Makes You Beautiful, Na Na Na, and countless other songs.
The other day, Mia posted this article on my Facebook wall and, needless to say I was stoked. I mean, Rolling Stone Magazine? Harry Styles? Outdated quips and trivia sprinkled in to show that the author of the article is Hip and totally part of the Fandom? Sign. Me. Up.
In the article, Rolling Stone, with its trademark brilliant and nuanced reporting, discusses what makes Harry Styles so successful and why he even matters in a pop industry that is so dominated by women (see: Taylor Swift).
The reasons for his success? He’s edgy while remaining PG. His tattoos show that he’s Cool and Aloof, while his appreciation for his fans shows that he’s Super Nice and Humble. Basically, he’s able to manage all of these seemingly contradictory traits and manipulate them into The Most Successful Image of All Time, all while not having the emotional breakdown that boybands and male pop singers are famous for having.
Pretty unremarkable right? I mean, a pop star, controlling his image so he can sell more albums, sell more tickets, play at Madison Square Garden, and have articles like this written about himself?
That’s totally normal.
Which is totally fine- until you consider that maybe this Image thing is not so confined to British pop stars and Blanche Dubois, and that maybe we’re not so far away from it ourselves.
I mean, wasn’t this sort of what Mr. Harris was talking about in his chapel talk? OK, he didn’t mention Harry Styles by name, so it’s not exactly the same, but it’s the principle.
It’s that thing about being yourself and not a preconceived notion of yourself, or whatever.
And it makes sense that pop stars and movie stars and athletes cultivate these images for themselves to simultaneously create a successful brand and protect their private lives. It’s fine, it serves them well.
But bring it back to us and what excuse do we have? We don’t have tickets or albums or movies to sell. We don’t have tabloids to keep out of our private lives or brands to protect, so what’s our excuse for accumulating all these seemingly desirable traits and then marketing ourselves as if we’re brands?
Why do we spend our time on Facebook and Instagram posting things to reinforce an image we’re creating for ourselves when we’re clearly much more Blanche than Harry Styles?
And the thing is Blanche goes crazy, in the end. Partly because of Stanley, but also partly because who can keep up a façade for that long and not go crazy?
So, in following up a little bit with Mr. Harris’s talk, all I’m saying is that while Harry Styles makes millions of dollars off of his created and manipulated image, by doing the same, we’re not doing much more than imprisoning ourselves, and we’re not so far off from Blanche Dubois.
So, in a few words, you might not want to be an image, you might actually want to be a person instead.

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