Immutable/Inscrutable

I retweeted this joke by @HeyItsLiam: Rebecca has such the opposite of star power, I can only call her a black hole of talent.

@maisquared responded: I don’t think negativity towards a 13 yr old girl is cool, neither is cyber bullying.

Actually, I do hear what Mai is saying. I agree, very slightly.

(That is, I agree about the negativity; to call the joke “cyber-bullying” is unfair. It wasn’t intended for Rebecca Black to read)

I was devastated when I received my first negative reviews in national publications, at the age of 24. I can’t imagine how horrible it is to be thirteen and an object of immense, international ridicule.

"Friday" is more than bad. It’s ludicrous. It illustrates a kind of shiny blandness, cheerful boringness, that’s all over the place in our culture. It’s a perfect parody of Disney product intended for tweens. Its stupidity is surreal. It’s absolutely appropriate to mock it.

It also means that a thirteen year old girl that’s essentially an innocent bystander—she looks like a prop in that video, placed like a chair on a set—is taking a massive psychic beatdown.

It’s tempting to say that stepping into the cultural current is to anticipate, and accept, devastating consequences. It’s also tempting to scold her parents for putting her in this position. These are both disingenuous. There’s no implicit contract that exchanges exposure for an acceptance of cruelty, and nobody could expect that, within 36 hours—neck-snapping speed!—their child would be, in the world’s focus, absolutely on par with Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. I’ve never recorded a song considering the possibility of being a worldwide monster meme on the day I post it.

(I was fascinated that the Duke student who wrote the PowerPoint satire on the sexual merits or ineptness of the lacrosse team was excoriated for brutalizing other human beings in the most public way. Dr Phil scolded us all for being so naive as to put things on the internet without considering potentially catastrophic consequences. She wrote a satire—however spiteful, scornful—on a laptop in a dorm room! For a couple of friends! Surely she was dumb to think they wouldn’t show it to a couple other people—but could she have anticipated a solemn, tsk-tsking segment on the Today show? Have you ever written an email, thinking, “Perhaps I should soften my sarcasm, lest this end up a headline on Gawker.”—??)

It’s fair to mention that, even if the lampooning is cold-blooded, being a meme of enormous scope is likely to benefit her, financially—assuming the adults steering her career have a cubic inch of savvy. If there isn’t a t-shirt with Rebecca Black’s face and the words AND AFTERWARDS IS SUNDAY to buy, they should have their ears boxed.

I often question the necessity of meanness in the media. After my own experience of being mangled by bad reviews, I wonder if there really is any sense in music magazines bothering to publish bad reviews that devastate artists. Why not just push the stuff they think is amazing, rather than waste space on records they find shitty? Put more pics of cute singers in there, for God’s sake.

Certainly it’s a cultural disease that trolls are unable to fully understand that viciousness typed in a comment box actually affects other people. I don’t believe trollery could be an epidemic if they had to look their victims in the face—not just because of cowardice. Some essential human empathy would kick in.

But, alas. Skewering “Friday” is relevant, and absolutely justifiable—possibly necessary. There is a vast difference between spoofing a tween for talentlessness and attacking her personally—though no doubt there’s some awful, vile things being written out there.

The guy who wrote the joke, Liam MacEneaney, is hilarious (I strongly recommend checking out his comedy show, Tell Your Friends: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=9182004366) Still, Mai is correct to remind that there’s a teenage kid whose brain is being ruthlessly pummeled by our laughter.

(Disclosure: Mai and I have toured together—she’s sold merch for me. This definitely influenced my proneness to agonize about her comment. Mai, as always, raising your ire, bumming you out, makes me feel absolutely awful.)

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