All The World's A Stage

danah boyd has some interesting thoughts on youth and celebrity culture:

If you follow Goffman, everyone has a tension between the frontstage (that which they show publicly) and the backstage (that which is reserved). This is where a lot of the public/private persona negotiation comes into play. Yet, it is always assumed that access to the backstage is inherently privileged, deeply desirable. Of course, this gets magnified in celebrity culture.

. . .

With both kids and celebrity, i think that the problem partially lies in the idea that the performance is being interpreted not in the performer's terms but in the terms of the audience. Adults typically read youth as "young adults" - a population who has just not yet matured and will one day see the way. [Barrie Thorne does an amazing job of challenging this and arguing for conceptualizing kid/youth culture on kid/youth terms.] But in the typical American construction of both populations, there's a deep desire to reread kids/celebrities from the perspective of the audience, as though they owe something to the audience - the future, entertainment, etc. The failure to own their own voice, to have their voices represent something larger than life alienates the individual, makes them feel nonexistent. When people speak about not being understood, their referencing how they feel objectified and othered.

There's a tension in having a voice. On one hand, people want their opinions and thoughts to have agency, to speak to a broad set of issues, to represent groups of people. On the other, they want to be voicing their own stories, not just being an icon for a broader population. This tension is difficult to resolve because it's simultaneously empowering and disempowering.


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