FAME: Drake comes to a comic book store near you this January.
The writers of Bluewater Comics’ series about pop-culture icons have decided that the Canadian hip-hop artist has earned enough attention through his two studio albums and recurring role on Degrassi: The Next Generation to merit his own book. The series spotlights such wunderkind as Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, who have earned more derision than acclaim in their relatively young careers. These two, however, have carved out names for themselves, and only those living under rocks without an internet connection haven’t heard of them.
Drake, though, is a doubly puzzling choice. He’s been pushed and promoted by his buddy Lil Wayne, but he doesn’t yet have the name recognition of Kanye West, Eminem, Young Jeezy, or 50 Cent, another artist profiled in the series. Some of the kids who gravitate to the comic series, eager to read more about their beloved Britney Spears or Lady Gaga, could be a little puzzled by the guy on the cover this January.
The other reason this choice boggles the mind is the fleeting and all-too-eagerly-bestowed nature of fame itself. Sure, Drake might yet elbow Kanye out of the way as hip-hop’s most recognizable star. But some of Bluewater’s other choices aren’t living up to their potential. With Britney Spears’ repeated meltdowns and the fact that Justin Bieber can’t stay fresh-faced and adorable forever, FAME appears to have captured some of today’s best-known names at their peak.
Which seems to be the problem with Bluewater Comics’ and American society’s celebration of insta-fame. Will we praise Spears, the Biebs, Swift, or Lady Gaga in a generation or two for their contributions to music? Given that the reaction nowadays is more along the lines of, “These new ‘artists’ all sound the same,” rather than, “These kids and their newfangled music! Get off mah lawn!” that sounds pretty unlikely.
In some ways, it’s hard to imagine patience and retrospective discussions on musical influence from a society that cranky old people say expects too much instant gratification. It’s a vicious cycle–why shouldn’t we expect to get what we want and be famous rightnowgoddammit? After all, Twilight stars Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner were recently inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame despite not having done much besides give mediocre performances in an awful series.
But they’re in good company: Paula Abdul (supposedly on there for her one-hit wonder, “Straight Up”), Ronald Reagan (would you deny a US President his gold star, regardless of how good a job he did?), and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen occupy stars on that same road of immortality. They are among such other luminaries as Pee-Wee Herman and Chris Berman, who earned his place among legends for sportscasting. Yep, announcing scores and making snide comments about quarterbacks will get you the same recognition as Charlie Chaplin and Jimmy Stewart.
The whole lot can look down their noses at Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, and Jane Fonda, Hollywood contributors who have been around long enough and done enough great work to have earned their fame and fortune but not stars.
These selections and omissions throw the whole value system by which we grant hero status into question. How long will it be before The Biggest Losers get their own stars? Do all those Survivors get a gold star just for, well, surviving a completely staged show? All those Real Housewives will surely consider the day they get to put their hand- and footprints on Hollywood Boulevard to be the second-best day of their lives, right after the one where they backstabbed a bitchy neighbor by sleeping with her husband.
By glomming onto the doings of the Jersey Shore crowd, we as an audience don’t help much to honor those who deserve Hollywood’s laurels. But it’s not just commoners who give untested artists more credit than they may yet deserve. A professional reviewer listening to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way likened it to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, calling it no less than rapturous. Is Lady Gaga good? That, like much else, is subjective, but she seems to be popular enough. Is she rapturous? Only time will tell, and one year ain’t enough time.
What about legendary artists? A Google search for musicians will turn up that adjective in conjunction with Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, and Celine Dion. The greatest ever? Actors included in this category include names as diverse as Robert DeNiro and Tom Cruise. At the very least, go through the local paper and tick off the number of movies that at least one critic breathlessly rates as the “best of the year.” Only two points for “best of the decade,” since that one gets thrown around almost as indiscriminately.
If new and still-living artists aren’t lauded with any of those adjectives, they might still be considered “awesome.” Reviewers crown the likes of Weezer and Jay Z with this one, completely ignoring the original meaning of the word as denoting something that is pants-shittingly terrifying. Can even Kanye destroy an entire city with the wave of a hand? He might think he’s godlike, but I’m waiting to see proof.
When seasoned critics and squealing fanboys and girls alike fawn over how incomparably amazing a brand-new album or previously unseen actor is, what praise is left for the Clint Eastwoods and Michael Jacksons and Louis Armstrongs, who were bona fide groundbreakers? What does it say about their understanding of history when they use the same adjectives to describe Rihanna and Diana Ross, the Beatles and the Bieber?
How are the newcomers who have potential but are still raw supposed to get seasoned if they’re already seen as the creme de la creme? Maybe those Twilight stars do have some acting abilities buried deep inside, but if they’ve become immortalized for what they’ve done so far, they’ll see no reason to branch out and push their own boundaries.
In the meantime, doubtlessly all the positive reviews you’ll read in the near future will talk about that new author, actor, or singer as being incredible, unforgettable, and totally awesome, dude. So it’s not surprising that the young and questionably talented are ripe enough fodder for FAME, both the series and the term. Hopefully they won’t take the graphic memorializations to heart and will keep pushing until they produce something worth talking about thirty years from now.
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Written by Bree Kornblum Katz (@breekatz)
Bree writes when she is not skiing off cliffs, facing down funnel clouds, or plumbing the depths of the internet. She's published short stories with Dead Dog Press, Six Sentences, and BlazeVOX and currently blogs about her hair-raising experiences in the Rocky Mountains at extremetothemax.com. She's still waiting on her… More »
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