The current One Direction “spliff saga” has had a similar impact on my life as the changing of Jif to Cif, the coming out of H from Steps, and the pedestrianisation of Norwich City Centre. Neither the band, nor the knowledge that 20 year old boys may be prone to smoking a joint, are at the forefront of my mind (that space is reserved for inane blog ideas, Swede Mason’s Masterchef Synesthesia, and confusion as to why nutmeg is not used in every recipe). The incident is, however, a wonderfully horrific microcosm of one of society’s most fascinating subjects – celebrity.
That is not to say celebrities themselves are interesting, rather the absurdity that surrounds them. A world where two 20 year old boys potentially smoking a joint is headline news is always going to be one that infuriates, baffles, and amuses. One Direction are a band containing a member who, when he and his girlfriend bought a puppy, found his new dog subject to death threats (yes, really) from jealous fans. They inhabit a world of obsessive, adoring and, quite frankly, mental, followers. While the millions of pounds and screaming girls may have its perks (no shit), it leaves them as occupiers of a life where they are commodities, churned through a reality TV show, jumbled together as a Frankenstein’s monster of youthful looks, wide-eyed naivety, and hair gel, and thrown headfirst into a Truman Show construct of reality. They, like Justin Bieber, have reached an unimaginable level of fame and fortune before they have even discovered Grand Theft Auto, Jagerbombs, and regret. In the case of Justin Bieber, we can all easily acknowledge that he is something of a prat, but if we were showered with fame and fortune in our early teens, can we say that we would have been much different? How can an inflated ego be avoided when, from childhood, that ego has been perpetually pumped up?
The “spliff saga” could well damage the careers of One Direction, as the destruction of their squeaky clean image sends thousands of girls into hysterical convulsions, the equivalent to finding out that the Clangers were the front for a space-based mafia, Fred Flinstone beat Wilma and set a rabid Dino on her, and Jimmy Savile…wait…
It could give the band a new found maturity and allow them to escape a state of perpetual adolescence, a transition that has proven so smooth and uncontroversial for Miley Cyrus, but there is a horrible pattern throughout the world of fame of building people up to knock them down. What is so often overlooked is that these are not just marketing tools or brands; they are people. A simultaneous deification and condemnation is a common trait in the British public, and the same line of reasoning is trotted out; “they are rich and famous, this is just part of the territory”. Well yes, possibly, but why must it be? “These people have a duty as role models”. Frankly, if you’re looking to Justin Bieber and One Direction as role models, that is your first mistake.
They must be allowed to live as normal a life as possible, to explore the things available to a normal youth. Regardless of their artistic merits, which are effectively at zero, they are young people that have done exceptionally well for themselves. Can we not be celebrate this, rather than seek to destroy it? We do not know these people; we will never know these people. We judge them based on a media construct, without any true knowledge of them. It is impossible to ever fully understand the mind of another (it could be argued that it is impossible to ever fully understand one’s own mind), let alone that of someone you have never had any contact with, save that one time you were at their gig and they “looked straight at you and smiled” (that didn’t happen, stop kidding yourself). There will be a new generation of teen idols, in primary school now, who, in a few years, will be preened and pampered into divas and egomaniacs by their adoring public, only to be shot down and chastised the next day.
As we speak, Jimmy Osmond is sat somewhere, perched on the end of a bed, lights dimmed, curtains shut. In one hand is a bottle of tequila, the other a vinyl copy of ‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’. He found it last night, buried in the skip in which he was sleeping. He spent today wandering the streets, asking people to remember, just remember, who he was. He was Jimmy Osmond, The Jimmy Osmond. They averted their eyes, shielded their children, threw coffee on him. Jimmy Osmond lay on the ground, licking the coffee from the floor, diluted with his tears. He was someone once. He was Jimmy Osmond, left to rot, once his lack of looks and talent beyond nepotism was realised. He could have been someone; he could have made it, if only anyone cared. They didn’t; he was tossed away like yesterday’s newspaper, just to be recycled in a slightly altered, rehashed format the next day (yes that is a metaphor – deal with it). He could not take it. Here one day, gone the next. It is on your conscience. Jimmy Osmond is on your conscience.