Most people who know me also know that I am a big fan of Shania Twain and her music. At one point, in my numerous writings and articles, I wrote a joke story about how I created a religion completely around Shania Twain, calling in Shaniaism. Since then, I’ve often joked about how I’m obsessed with Shania Twain and she won’t return any of my calls, even though I’ve maintained a collection of all of her restraining orders out on me. For the record, I’ve never contacted Shania Twain ever, nor would I ever, but it was today that I actually found out Ms. Twain actually has a stalker who has been trying to get close to her, sending her flowers and even showing up at engagements trying to get close to her. It kind of makes joking about such things not as funny, and obviously I’ll probably have to stop this line of humor, even though I have great respect for the Goddess Shania and all things that her religion entails. Oh, sorry. Kind of went off the deep end there again.
The point of this post is to address the fact that it’s getting to the point where people are starting to have to actually be very scared of each other. In the era of Twitter, Facebook and blogs, celebrities are now very much out in the public, trying to maintain their celebrity status while appearing to be very accessible to that same public as well. This has introduced a huge problem that I don’t think was ever intended, but we now have a public out there that thinks it’s actually worthy of interacting with those of celebrity, even to the point of misunderstanding the personal nature of celebrity contact with actual beliefs that an invitation has been offered, when obviously none has ever been suggested or imagined.
We should have probably realized this was the direction where we were leading back when some nutcase killed John Lennon for no other reason than he was obsessed with the musician. Over the years there have been people overly obsessed with famous people, who have gone and done some really ridiculous things, all in the name of believing that somehow they are living a part of that celebrity’s life, convinced that if that star or starlett just got a chance to know them, everything would work out smashingly. That’s always been a part of the joke of my Shaniaism, which in case you haven’t figured out was more a criticism of organized religions than an actual worship of the Great Shania Herself. Years ago, I thought of actually sending a copy of my published article (it was originally a newspaper article) to Shania Twain herself but then decided against it, realizing that if I was a star and some unknown person sent me something that indicated that person saw me as some kind of deity, I might not understand it’s a joke or analogy, and it might freak her the hell out. So I never sent it to her, figuring that she probably had enough on her mind as it was without having to worry that some professor across the country was going to show up on her doorstop hoping to worship her in person. Unfortunately, she’s already got an alleged nutcase that’s doing that already (and he’s supposedly some well-to-do person himself, which brings me to realize that these antics aren’t limited to crazed loners who live in their parents’ basement).
So, I guess my point that I want to make is that we really need to be cognizant of the fact that there are these people out there who have a limited grasp on reality. And because our communication mechanisms these days are designed more about bringing the celebrity closer to the audience, we have to realize that some of these audience members are probably going to think that the star is actually talking directly to him or her. You see this sort of thing in strip joints a lot, which should probably have scholars studying them nonstop, if it wasn’t for the fact that I suspect scholars would gladly do so but then actually not do any academic work while visiting strip joints on university dimes. But the point I was going to make is that quite often audience members will actually think that these women working in these places are dancing specifically for them, thinking that they actually have a chance at hitting it off with the attractive woman who is really there for the sole purpose of earning a living. This often leads to a lot of antisocial behavior, and quite often it leads to a lot of misunderstandings as well. But it is so easy to see how this same type of behavior is exactly the same kind of behavior that is taking place between celebrities and their audiences. It doesn’t matter if the celebrity is in front of them, on television, on the Internet or even in a magazine. The dangerous fact is that a lot of these audience members see themselves as the direct recipient in the funnel of communication, not realizing that the funnel broadcasts to numerous audience members instead of just the one person who sees himself/herself as the sole recipient.
Unfortunately, I don’t really know the solution to this problem as I believe the problem is only going to get worse as we develop more and more technologies that put us closer and closer to our celebrities. Perhaps the interaction will eventually create a back and forth conversation between an avatar that is disassociated from the original celebrity (thus being more of an android-like participant), but that still leaves the audience member believing that he or she is sharing an intimate encounter with the celebrity. We see this similar action with music quite often, when a musician plays a tune, and the listener feels that he or she has shared an experience with the musician, even though the experience may have been a recording or an encounter where the two entities are not even in the same location. Because the recipient has experienced an emotion with the deliverer of the message, there is a sense in that recipient that both shared the encounter, leaving a potentially awkward future encounter should the two ever meet in person, as the deliverer of the message never experienced the initial feedback to understand how a shared experience could have taken place.
So, I’ll break with that, figuring that the future will probably fill in a lot of the detail that I do not yet have to share. Perhaps the Goddess Shania might bring me the answers in my sleep. After all, she is all great and holy and all that. Isn’t that how those things are supposed to happen?