Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Idol Pursuits

You watch them on stage. They glow with a blinding inner self assurance; they dance and sing with a grace and power only imagined in other worldly beings. Under that spotlight, they are untouchable, elevated and godlike. Sometimes, they are literally flying high above us. It's thrilling and exciting to be in their presence; these marvellous creatures we call 'performers'. 

We want to protect this idea of their grandeur - it feels good to have these icons to aspire to. What is it like to be them? How wonderful their lives are. How perfect. Maybe one day I can be like them.

Except, there’s one problem. This is all an illusion. The characters you see on stage are just creations.

"But I've seen them at gigs, doing their own music, being themselves" Yes, in this instance they may not be playing a character, but they are still performing. When they meet and greet later - still performing. It's all in the job description. After all, it is a job - just like the rest of us have. Theirs is just a little more public.

A confession - I don't really like to meet the people I admire. It always leaves a depressing sense of anti-climax. It feels scandalous to say so because 'stage-dooring' has become such a huge part of the experience for so many. For me, though, I like to remain remote and it's because I want to maintain the illusion - I'm not above admitting that. I want to cherish the idea that they are the larger than life characters I saw on stage.

I remember a time when I was a child - I was sitting in the bar area with my family after a show, when one by one the actors slid from a side door that led backstage and sat among us, just like regular people. And I was upset. I'd only just escaped into this grand and magical world and here was the reality and normality of actor "Dave" who lives in a small flat on the outskirts of London, trying to earn enough to give his kids a good education. I didn't want him to be "Dave", I wanted him to be "Buttons" (my theatre going was mostly panto back then), the happy-go-lucky village idiot predisposed to accidentally throwing pies at unfortunate audience members.

Obviously, the above situation is embellished. There's no way I could recall that kind of detail from 20 years ago. But you see my point - I don't need to know the details of the actor’s life. It's illusion shattering.

However, it is an intoxicating feeling to get an insight into the mind of revered idols and with social networking sites, like twitter, it's never been easier. You get an insight in a way that couldn't have been achieved even just 10 years ago.

But, wait, isn't this just an illusion too? You can make yourself out to be whoever you want to be on twitter. You can edit your personality by what you choose to reveal - or what not to reveal.

So what happens when our idols are caught making a poor decision or simply being grumpy on an off day? Everyone's horrified and inconsolable. Suddenly they seem weak and fragile, small and... Human?!

I think it is okay to get caught up in the illusion, though, because it's all part of the escapist fantasy - whether you want to be at the front of the stage door queue being recognised by all your favourite stars, or if you'd rather admire from afar. However you choose to enjoy the experience it's important to remember that it's all just razzle dazzle. Perhaps sometimes we ought to take a step back, squint against the glare of the bright lights and sequins and realise that these are simply human beings just doing a job.


  1. Fab blog! It really startles me how involved some fans get in performers personal life. in particular when the performer hasn't spoken publicly about said drama. Wether it's messages of love or hate I think it's inappropriate. I'm with you, I watch from afar and keep my delusions haha x

  2. Thanks Siobhan. I'm glad you enjoyed the post :) I think a lot of fans are easily confused into believing the illusion wholly and with the ease of connecting with performers these days, it could become dangerous. Some people seem to think they have a 'right' to know what's going on in their idols lives because they are a fan. It's a bit worrying really.

  3. Love this! Nice work Jac. This applies to the wider world of showbiz too I think. Back when Elvis was around there wasn't a million and one backstage, at home, on the road documentaries where you could get to know the real person. We should only see stars at night, when they come out to shine. Once again, great writings! :)