Monday, May 05, 2008

Boxing Humanity

I finally received my copy of the "infamous" Vanity Fair issue that features the "scandalous" photograph of Miley "Hannah Montana" Cyrus that media pundits obsessed about. Out of 184 pages, many filled with far racier ads of scantily-clad models of both genders hawking perfume and clothing lines, it seems crazy that one photo got so much attention. Especially since this issue features Robert F. Kennedy on the cover with a story about his presidential campaign 40 years ago that still inspires idealists (like myself). I love the magazine because of its good political articles and hate that the media picked out the fluff from a great issue.

In my latest issue of Time magazine featuring "the 100 Most Influential People in the World," I was shocked that Miley Cyrus was included in the group, among more notable people as Aung San Suu Kyi, Steve Jobs, Rupert Murdoch, Tony Blair, Michael Bloomberg, Peter Gabriel, Lance Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey, Vladimir Putin, the Dalai Lama, the three presidential contenders, and even the Jolie-Pitts ("Brangelina"). The reason why I want to bring up Miley Cyrus again (!) is because of what Donny Osmond wrote about her (before the controversial photograph) that I found interesting:

"Your image becomes cryogenically frozen into a specific stereotype. Within three to five years, Miley will have to face adulthood. Fans grow up, and their youthful interests quickly dissolve. Her challenge will be overcoming the Hannah Montana stereotype. Miley's fans are not thinking about the fact that she will grow up too. As she does, she'll want to change her image, and that change will be met with adversity. It's next to impossible to fight, embrace, use or love your image. Trust me. I've seen this all play out before; it's the same ball game, just different players in a different time."
Keeping with this theme, I was also struck by what director George Lucas said about the rabid fans of "Star Wars" and of "Indiana Jones." Here's what he told Entertainment Weekly magazine about the highly anticipated "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull":

"We're only going to get aggravation. The fans think it's gonna be the Second Coming. And it's not the Second Coming. They've already written the story [in their heads], and lemme tell ya, it's not that story. So they're going to be very disappointed. I went through this with Phantom Menace. Believe me, I've been there, I've done it, I know exactly the way they react. And they're very vocal about these things. We're not gonna have adoring fans sending us e-mails saying how much they loved the movie. We're gonna have a bunch of angry people saying, 'You're a bunch of assholes, you should never have done this. You've ruined my life forever. I loved Indiana Jones so much and now it's ruined.' And all that kind of stuff."
Wow. Really? I'm actually shocked. Though I shouldn't be. I think I was one of the few people who grew up with the original "Star Wars" trilogy who LOVED LOVED LOVED the prequel trilogy. It was surprising to hear people of my generation and older trash talk the prequels, while hearing children get excited the way we once were when the originals first came to theaters. What is wrong with adulthood anyway, to turn people into cynical critics who can't appreciate movies in a childlike way? What is it about people that makes them take someone else's work of art and develop their own ideas about what happens? Kind of like "Spider-man" fans who were angry about the change in making Spidey's webfluid a function of his body instead of something he had to make (as it was in the comic book). Subtle changes like that can make fanboys go apeshit like Naomi Campbell on an airplane. Why? There's a reason why some people have Hollywood careers bringing THEIR visions to life on film while others are still living in their parents basements reading comic books and playing video games. Just relax, eh? Enjoy someone's vision without expectations.

In fact, the only time I've been disappointed in a film is when I went to see it after hearing RAVE reviews or thinking it was going to be about something based on previews, but the film turned out to be completely different from my EXPECTATIONS. And that's the key to disappointed. If you have pre-conceived notions going in, you are going to be disappointed. When I saw the "Star Wars" prequels, I went to see them as I did in my childhood. It was a "spiritual experience" for me and I let it all unfold, without my mind processing where it's going to lead. A friend of mine has the uncanny ability to predict the ending of nearly every movie he sees. In a way, it can be annoying. I see it as a competition he has with himself to prove himself smarter than the film. It's no way to enjoy a movie. I love to let things unfold.

But I think what both quotes I used above indicates is the human tendency to put things into boxes. We seem to have a need to put people into boxes so we can understand them, but when they rebel or break out of the box we put them in, we have the audacity to be outraged. Who are we to be outraged? Just let people be who they are. Maybe putting Miley Cyrus into this odd fictional character of Hannah Montana is restricting of her growth and the photograph was her way of breaking out of the judgmental attitudes of parents of preteen girls who idolize the Disney-created sitcom star.

There have been times where people have tried to put me in a box, but it never works. Most people have said of me throughout the years: "I've never met anyone like you before." This was especially true in the Navy. I don't easily fit into any category. How could I? I grew up a bi-racial kid in the post-Vietnam War years in the lily white Midwest as well as a predominantly white church. I never learned much about my mother's culture, other than her strong dislike of the Thai government and the material obsessions and hypocrisy of the Buddhist people. And as I grew up, I took an unusual liking to African music (as well as other world music). Six of my most impressionable years (ages 13-16 and 19-22) were spent in Europe, so a lot of my interests and personality reflect "European values" more than American ones. So, I'm hard to put in a box and I like it like that. Maybe that's why I'm so drawn to the campaign of Barack Obama, another one who is hard to "box."

I wish people would just let people be who they are, without having a need to categorize them into easily applied labels and stereotypes. The world would be much better off if we allowed people to be the individuals they are. And that includes celebrities like Miley Cyrus or Britney Spears.

Speaking of boxes, the above photo is of a new design in apartment living: boxes! I watched some news program in the past week in which they had talked about the waste of shipping containers. Since most of the shipping goes one way (China to the U.S. for example), we end up with a lot of the metal shipping containers and it doesn't make economic sense to send the empty ones back to China to reuse. Instead, they are created in China to contain all manner of items that are shipped to the U.S. and we're left with all these empty shipping containers. In London, they have built an apartment complex out of these containers and it looked pretty modern and you couldn't tell on the inside what they used to be. From the outside, it does look odd (as the photo above shows), but it's an example of innovation to reuse rather than waste. Hopefully it's a trend that will pick up, because apparently, its much cheaper than building from scratch.

So, if we're going to put people into boxes, why not these "boxy" apartments? I'd love to live in one. But that's the only way you'll ever "box me in!"

1 comment:

Mandalynn said...

Those apartments are sweet. I think they look cool from the outside. I'll have to search and see if I can get some pics of the inside.

Plus, I'm super excited for Indiana Jones - but I'm also a realist. I'm trying not to build it up in my head. I did like the Lucas quote.