So this post isn’t directly about music but it affects some of the attitudes that are in still affects the entertainment industry. I just finished watching the two seasons “The Fabulous Mrs. Maisel” There was many things I loved about it but there was also so much I didn’t like (pm me if you want to discuss). But this post isn’t about the show.
I understand that quite a bit of it was inspired by Joan Rivers which is what this post is about. I don’t believe in speaking ill of the dead (and I hope I’m not) but after researching her more, I realized she had a lot more influence on me growing up, in both negative and positive ways.
As a child, growing up while Ms. River was at her height of her career – she always seemed to hold up a measuring stick that I knew I would never be able to measure up to figuratively and literally. I remember when ever I would see her on TV or see magazines’ covers of her, I would get a sense that I should feel guilty about something. As well many humans in my own life seemed to hold that stick up as well and it created a lot of self doubt and just negative thoughts about myself that have taken years somewhat to recover from. I don’t believe they were directly influenced by her but they like her were reacting to what they believe society needed and believed to be healthy and happy – we needed to ‘fit’ a certain measument on that stick. And remember it wasn’t just about being ‘fat,’ my ‘thin’ friends tell me they were often told to gain weight as they were too ‘thin.’
I was too young to understand her comedy but I remembering her glamour and the way she could just shoot the breeze with ‘powerful’ men. I don’t believe I was aware why but in retrospect I think that it subconsisiouly translated as power and control something that as I didn’t have as a shy fat girl who wanted to be on stage. I may be wrong but I believe many people probally idenitfied with that too and admired it. She seemed to have the perfect life. The woman also never seemed to age thanks to plastic surgery which also fed into the idea that growing old is bad. The men of that era all went grey and wrinkled becoming ‘dignified’ yet she stayed ‘young.’ All of this made her deadly in influencing young impressionable humans – going back to that measuring stick. We probably wern’t even aware as but it was there influencing us. And although this blog post is focused on her – she wasn’t the only one. I still see the effects of this as my generation starts to deal with aging. Somehow half of our society doesn’t have permission to grow old, it isn’t ‘dignified.’
But maybe, her breaking down Oprah by asking her how did you gain that much weight to her claiming that Kate Winslet’s arms could have kept the Titanic afloat really helped shape me and thousands of people. And remember how her Oscar report (which was basically just her trashing people, appartently she never got Jack Benny’s memo on the first rule of comedy which is to never make fun of others but just yourself) was a huge deal and even local news shows would report on it – never understood that. This probally helped give birth to the body positive movement and helped us throw away that measuring stick away enabling us to own our power.
What was most interesting is that also I read she had been “fat” in college (and after losing the weight, she got her nose “fixed.” It took a while to find any pre-surgery and “weight” lost photos but found two pictures and her nose was cute and she was far from “fat.” It is sad really because as one of the first successful female comedians, she broke down so many barriers but as an article in the New York Times puts it she was a ” victim, a rebel, and, finally, an enforcer” of the sexist’s era.
I think it is a good lesson for all of us – What are we doing? Why are we doing something? Reminds me of that quote from the Bible (regardless of your background or beliefs, I believe it is words to live by)
Matthew 16 “What good it is for a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul”
So as we build our branding, write our music and decided where to perform – I believe the most important question to answer is why? What is driving us?
We have accomplished much in breaking down barriers and attitudes. I believe we still have so much to do and we can learn much from Joan Rivers.