|P T Barnum: showman, conman, problematic dude|
With 10 billion things to do before I graduate, one would think I would prioritise better, especially when I have a dissertation to write. But I can't help myself. When I get really interested in something, my mind just runs away with it. Right now I'm interested in a number of different but connected things:
Showmanship and entertainers, particularly larger than life people like P T Barnum, Willy Wonka and Michael Jackson. Why do great entertainers feel compelled entertain?
Fanaticism: Why do female adolescents idolise male celebrities? What causes hysteria? Why did people faint and scream for Elvis, for Michael Jackson, for the Beatles, for Liszt?
|You know who this is!|
There's a film I've talked a little bit about before, it's called The Brother's Bloom. I don't want to give too much away but basically it's about these con artist brothers played by Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody, and Mark Ruffalo basically constructs these extremely elaborate cons 'like Russian novels' which Adrien Brody has to act out. They've been doing this for so long, that Brody feels like he hasn't had a life, he's just been living out his brother's scripts. He asks for an 'unwritten life'. Despite the message of the film I was defiant that I could script and direct my own life. I would literally write out and map out how I wanted each day to go before I went to bed. Of course it didn't work. Everyday can't be like a Wes Anderson film. People don't know your script, they don't know their lines, they don't know they're supposed to invite me on a picnic and talk like Sebastian from Brideshead Revisited and rent a 1930s Rolls Royce! Why not, dammit!
Around my room and other places at home are the markers of the show: a top hat, a Harold Lloyd-esque straw boater, tap shoes, ballet shoes, waistcoats: show clothes as ordinary clothes. I'm not lying: I used to walk around town dressed as Harold Lloyd. Why did I do this? Pure fantasy. Then I didn't have to be me. I could be Harold Lloyd this week and someone else the next. Yes, it's telling that these figures tended to be male but I already had a female hero; my mum. I could dress up and imagine myself as these people and hope that life would mould itself around me to fit that.
|Harold Lloyd (Silent movie actor)|
I'm also surprised at the aggression with which I seem to be writing my last few posts. Not directed at you of course, you guys have been nothing but kind and encouraging but I think it's the slow release of frustration that has built up during the last few very introspective months. I found this in a diary entry I wrote in early February:
'To speak is to fight [...] This does not necessarily mean that one plays in order to win. A move can be made for the sheer pleasure of its invention.' - Jean Francis Lyotard
I can't explain it exactly but I do feel there is a sense of desperation and hmm maybe even slight aggression in my speech acts and writing. Not aggressive to anything on the outside, but towards the thing within that keeps me quiet when I want to speak or jumbles up my words. And when I speak and when I write I definitely am playing to win'. To win, for me, is to have successfully communicated, to have been understood. I feel like I cannot afford to play for pleasure'.
As much fun as the idea of The Show has been at times, it also causes immense pressure. Every social interaction feels like opening night; I'm supposed to blow people away, with wit, with knowledge, with something. As I write this I'm trying to figure out if this is why I can't deal with small talk. The Show is so ingrained, I rehearse the slightest social interaction.
Okay: Say Hi, how are you? Then pause. Say: I'm good thanks. Then Pause. If no response ask what they are up to.
And here comes the cheesy bit: All the world's a stage
Which is why there are days I don't leave my room let alone my house. Convincing myself that I'm 'rehearsing'. If I get it 'right' in here, in my room, in my head, then I can get it right out there, on stage. And if I mess it up, if I accidentally say 'How are you?' twice, or miss a social cue, I feel like I 'bombed at Apollo'.
Conan O'Brien, I can't remember where, either in an interview or a podcast, said that when he feels like he's had a bad show, he remembers that he can do another one tomorrow. Internalise this. One Freudian slip, one nervous smile, one twitch that gives away that I am anxious as hell and I pull the curtain down on myself. 'That's it! You're out of here! You'll never work in this town again, kid!' But that's not how it works.
If all the world's a stage and everyone is a 'player', why do I imagine myself a one-man show with everyone else ready to pan me? (yes, this is a reeeallly extended metaphor! But bear with me, I'm getting to the end.)
It's starting to look to me like it's all improv. Improv can be scary. We have our go-tos: social routines, etiquette, whatever, to make it somewhat easier. The rest? I guess it's about listening to the people around you, and watching, instead of thinking of what to say and what to do, and how you should say and do those things and you'll get the cues. And if you don't?. You get back up and have another go.
PT Barnum: national fairground archive
MJ aka ultimate bae: delwareonline (not actual source)
David Bowie: tumblr
Conan O'Brien: tumblr