Chargers: How Influencers Face Swift Justice In Online Court Of Opinion

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 13.12.42Role models. We know we love to build them up, only to knock them back down again. But awareness of this fact does nothing to prevent us doing it. When we look for cultural leaders, what we’re actually looking for is the perfectly imperfect.

Let’s not bore us all by rehashing the story that has been told and retold all over the media since this past fateful Sunday evening. As we know, Taylor Swift, Kanye and Kim Kardashian West are dominating pop-culture conversation. The above image was posted to Instagram by a Melbourne-based artist who goes by “LushSux”; seemingly poking fun at the death of Swift’s career, or at least her good name. It’s a satirical look at how we, as a society, obsess over those that are famous.

In the same way that we have a 24-hour news cycle, we now have 24-hour celebrities. Online conversation is overflowing with tweets, Instagram pics and snapchat stories. And they never switch off. Tech has been the gateway to fame for many, but for others it’s led to a spectacular downfall. In this case, through a simple video recording and a social media platform, all the hard work by Team Swift came crashing down around them.

See, what’s interesting in terms of the Swifty Saga, is that unlike most pop-culture icons of recent times, she tried to stay impossibly above the fray. Her team have worked wonders at ensuring that in every situation, she came out, time and time again, smelling of roses. Only this time, when it all went wrong, it most definitely stank of shit.

The problem is that figures of cultural influence – celebrities, sportsmen and even brands – sometimes forget that it’s not perfection that makes us fall in love with them, or that makes them iconic, it’s relatability, honesty and authenticity.

Last November The Chatter published a piece called “Ta-Ta for now Taylor Swift” where we discussed how Swift’s previously meticulously-executed publicity machine was struggling. Highlighting that, in general, people are suspicious of perfection. We also mentioned Adele’s authenticity in comparison to Taylor’s well-oiled operation. Some eight months later, and we find ourselves here.

At this year’s Glastonbury Adele got up on the stage at Glastonbury and dropped the F-bomb. Repeatedly. And regardless of advance warnings from the BBC. To her fans she’s the equivalent of your best mate, in the pub, having a laugh and forgetting to turn on the filter. Oops. But bless her, she’s “ah-mazing”.

We continue to use Adele as an example because similarly to Swift, her past relationships served to fuel her fame and artistry. But, and this is important it seemed genuine, not contrived. Through what seemed like actual heartbreak (this Brit Award video is case in point) as opposed to suspected album fodder, we sang along, cried with her and fell in love with the girl next door. At this point it would take something huge for Adele to find herself in our bad graces. And even then we’d probably forgive her – nobody’s perfect after all.

Real-life relationships are complex and so are those we hold with our Chargers. We want our role models to reflect some plausible reality – and we don’t fully trust people who seem too good to be true. The trouble comes when an influencer tries to be infallible; its just not possible. And if they go so far as to put themselves on a pedestal a la Swift, you can bet they are going to come crashing down sooner rather than later.

The media has written that this week’s debacle is about race. They’ve written that it’s about gender. But it all really boils down to the fact that in the court of public opinion, good old fashioned principles count. Never get caught in a lie. And if you do, don’t dig yourself deeper. Sportsmen, celebs and brands take note.

It was with great irony “talentless” Kim Kardashian West and her “narcissistic” hubby came out on top over “sweet” Taylor Swift. Because for all their flaws, they are, by and large, accountable. Influencers can be iconic. But superhuman? Nah. We don’t want perfect, we want something we can believe in. Be human, be honest and be authentic. Because if you can’t, you’d better be ready to face the music.

 

Image @ LushSux via Instagram

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Chargers: The Purpose Of Role Models.

 

Should influence alone make someone a role model? 

A few weeks ago Rebel Wilson recounted the story of how she was asked to present an award with Kylie and Kendall Jenner but refused on the basis that the Kardashians as a whole stood for something she very much did not; she had worked hard for a living but Kim had simply made a sex tape. I have been in many a meeting or conversation when the subject of the Kardashians as role models has arisen and tempers have flared. It’s definitely a polarising topic and on Monday Oprah waded in, to say that no one could deny how very hard the Kardashian family worked. Interesting…

See here’s the thing, No one can deny how “very hard” the Kardashians work. Their work ethic is admirable and, yes, they are influential, but, besides making money, what are they using that influence for? And…does it even matter?

Ultimately it does. Coca-Cola works hard – to flog us cans of unnecessary sugar. And the villains in superhero movies work hard – to take over the world. Neither parties are adding something positive. Regardless of hard work and ambition, what we are looking at is the decline in public favour of the superficial and vapid to a rise in the meaningful. As well as being influential, we want our role models to actually represent “something.’

And that’s where the protagonists come in looking to exert change. The culture “bubble” of authenticity, substance and female worth that extends beyond beauty is pushing against the vacuous and female-limiting model in existence. Think of it like a giant see-saw of cultural influence. At one end you have the Kardashians whose value lies in self-promotion, vanity, cultural influence (along with that hard work). At the other end you have Rebel Wilson, Amy Schumer, Jennifer Lawrence, Lena Dunham and a few others whose values lies in talent, positive body image, feminism and, again, hard work. In this instance they are the protagonist “bubble” demanding a fresh perspective on what’s deemed aspirational for women. But do Rebel’s bunch have enough power in their movement to usurp the Kardashian brand? At this point in time the answer is likely no. In fact drawing further attention to the Kardashians, results only in making their bubble bigger and pushing their level of influence higher.

When Oprah chimed in – one of the most influential, accomplished female role models in US history – with her formidable power, influence, fame and hard-working ethic, it was possible for her to swing the balance either way and you may have assumed she would align herself with the protagonists. However, she came out in support of the Kardashians. So if the Kardashians, culture savvy as they are, are beginning to realise that influence and fame alone won’t keep you on your pedestal and are looking to make the move into this “purpose” space, Oprah, who straddles both worlds, may have just held open the door for them.

Think about the Beckhams. Arguably the Kardashians of their generation, respected for their individual careers and initially treated as cultural royalty, they became ridiculed and parodied to the point where their “bubble” was on the verge of bursting. However due to their respective careers, charity work, relatable family values and all-round likability, they gave the Beckham brand new meaning beyond simply fame. They reinvented themselves with new purpose. Indeed, they now both individually and collectively serve as respected role models for modern day culture.

The smartest strategy for the Kardashian clan, is to publicly align the brand with a cause or speak out in support of culturally relevant issues. And silence the naysayers who say they stand for nothing. However, when you’re narrative has always been just about the fame, what will be interesting for the Kardashians is whether they can change that narrative sufficiently so that it is not perceived as yet another self-aggrandising promotional tactic.

I’m talking to you…”President” Kanye.

Image @ oprahwinfrey.com

 

 

Chargers: Kate Winslet The Anti-Role Model?

Image @image.ie

Image @image.ie

Chatter: In a recent interview with BBC Newsbeat Winslet, crediting British culture, said although she could understand why conversations around pay were occurring, she had never experienced negativity based on gender in her career.

Conversation:  Unlikely to sit well with the supporters of the macro trend for gender equality, Kate Winslet has previously been seen as a role model for women by refusing photo shop including calling out GQ magazines for heavily editing a picture of her in 2013. Unless she seeks to clarify her comments, this suggestion of silencing the conversation may see that position of role model called into question. Potentially this could follow her round on her press tour for her three movies due for release in quick succession.

Chargers: Taylor Swift – Ta Ta For Now?

Chatter – Taylor Swift has settled the “Lucky 13” trademark case out of court. Swift was being sued for selling clothes bearing the trademark but an affidavit from her legal team claimed Swift had for “no knowledge related to the design, marketing, advertising, distribution and sale of the accused T-shirt.”


Narrative – After a spectacular two-year or so run in the A+ list, Taylor Swift seems to be fielding tricky PR situations left and right since the summer. It’s probably fair to argue that a lot of it has just been media fodder but up until now the Taylor Swift publicity machine had been meticulously executed and, whilst we love to build people up to bring then down, I would have said that previous to this her team was so savvy she was almost untouchable.

Recent chatter:

  1. Taylor’s MTV “Twitter feud” with Nick Minaj saw a lot of criticism thrown Swift’s way for her handling of the situation and for her seeming lack of understanding of the broader race issue.
  2. According to The Guardian, her video for Wildest Dreams found Swift “embroiled in fresh race-related controversy after the video for her song Wildest Dreams was accused of having racist overtones.”
  3. The video for bad-blood saw Swift being referred to as “Regina king” (Mean Girl film reference) and she had to deny video was directed at Katy Perry.

Up for discussion:

  1. Whilst her popularity is undeniable it would seem that her image and influence has taken a bit of a battering of late. As I previously mentioned, the culture associated with role models is invariably to build them up to tear them down. We struggle with the concept of perfection, we mistrust it and so we start to pull holes until we can satisfy ourselves that we have discovered the truth.
  2. Whilst filming a BBC show, Adele recently admitted that her tweets now go through two or three people after a few drunken tweeting incidents although she is adamant they still come through her. Social Media is a difficult one for role models to balance – too perfect and the lack of authenticity lowers the level of perceived engagement, but let loose…and many a problem can occur.  For Taylor it would seem that future discussions may stay out of the public domain, in a recent interview with GQ she said “I don’t want to talk about it,” Swift said in the interview regarding what happened with Minaj. “But I send text messages now. If there seems to be some kind of misunderstanding, I go to someone’s management, I get their number and I text them. It’s an important lesson for anyone to learn in 2015.” I think having seen what happened to the once infallible Swift, more celebs will follow suit in order to preserve their hard-earned positive positions.
  3. With Taylor continuing “I think people my need a break from me” it will be interesting to see who steps into the Taylor Swift hole, once her 1989 tour ends in December. With a new album, supporting the LGBT community and being outspoken in her pursuit of gender equality it could well be Miley Cyrus entering stage left.