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Boring or Brilliant: Regaining Our Sense of Judgement
We’ve all heard his name, heard his music, and some of us have probably seen a poster of him hanging on some 12-year-old girl’s wall. He makes 22,800,000 dollars per year, 95,000 dollars a day, and 3 dollars and 29 cents per second (Daisy 1). For 17-year-old Justin Bieber, being overwhelmed in success and cash is something hard to stray from. This Canadian boy found on YouTube was designed to be a twenty-first-century hit; with his super catchy songs, sweet and likable voice, and his amiable personality, fame and fortune seemed to almost follow Justin. His first single One Time was released in early 2009 and, after waiting patiently on the Billboard Hot 100 for six months, picked up momentum at the end of 2009 (Loretta 23). Since then, Justin’s been releasing countless albums, going on world tours, and gaining enormous fame.
In this day and age, real success is often defined as receiving the same opportunities as the rich and famous. Though many would disagree, it’s an idea difficult to debate against. So, with that in mind, what is it about Justin that made it so easy for him to make it big? Was it his knack for singing and making music, or something a bit more one-dimensional? Could it be the rampant, unruly hormones of his young fans? In any case, the dispute regarding what it takes to be successful can be portrayed through
Justin’s story, leading us to ponder what it is about him that’s so appealing. The answer could say a lot about who we are as a culture. So, how do we, as a society, judge the quality of what’s around us, and how does it reflect today’s society?
Take TV, for example. It’s something everyone engages in and only sometimes do we evaluate the quality of what we watch. People are drawn to TV shows that can keep their attention and connect them in some way, whether it’s a reality show, a sitcom, or a game show. It’s sometimes difficult to judge the quality of a TV show—if you enjoy watching it, what’s the point of picking it apart? Because TV’s such a common element of today’s world, these traces of stupidity found on television shows eventually become customary for us. Just the other day, I found a girl I know from school wearing a tight skirt doing cartwheels downtown, much like the character Snooki from the notorious reality show Jersey Shore. Though I didn’t think much of it at the time, I later realized that, if she weren’t to have watched the show, the girl wouldn’t have embarrassed herself in such a Snookiesque fashion.
The amount of money television stars earn per episode is more than most common people make in a year. Hugh Laurie from the show House tops the charts at 400,000 dollars an episode, making him the highest paid TV actor in Hollywood. Though the first five or so salaries are impressive, so are the acting skills. It wasn’t until I read some of the salaries toward the middle of the list that I began to get a bit frustrated. People such as Ashley Tisdale, who was discovered in a mall with no acting experience whatsoever, earns 30,000 dollars an episode on her TV show Hellcats (Bottaglio 1). Though her salary is relatively small compared to Hugh Laurie’s monster, this small piece of information made me question the television industry altogether.
Because of TV, the world of theatre has seen immense slumps. Broadway is one of the tightest industries in America. Anyone who sings, dances, or acts dreams of someday performing on that stage in New York City. The directors are looking for triple threats: people that can dance, sing, and act at exceptional rates. Theatre’s become something appreciated primarily by the people involved in it because of today’s culture. Why go see a play when you’ve got a big flat screen right in your home? When it comes to the salary, this trend influences the modern, hardworking actor. “‘You never feel that you've got enough money to live,’ says Sean Martin Hingston, a featured dancer in the Broadway hit Contact, who's been earning a living as an actor, singer, and dancer since he was 18. ‘When we started Contact, we were doing a workshop, making $311 a week. Now that it's a hit, I've been stashing the money away because I don't know when there's going to be a drought.’ The minimum weekly salary for actors on Broadway last year was $1,215, and Off Broadway minimums range from $440 to $763. But Actors' Equity confirms that fewer than 15 percent of its dues-paying members work during any given week and the average annual earning for an actor in 1999 was $14,936” (“$alaries in the City” 1). This led me to wonder why today’s culture favors television over theatre; though it’s solely my opinion, actors on Broadway have more of a depth to them as opposed to stars on TV shows like Hannah Montana and Glee. I think it says a lot about where out society’s turning. What we used to consider as ‘brilliant’ has now been relabeled as ‘boring’.
The same scenario is true with literature. As a fervent reader as well as an English student, I’m introduced to a variety of books. On my own, I enjoy reading commercial fiction with an intriguing and moving plot. When I find something I love, I can spend hours reading the same book, sometimes repetitively. In school, I’m introduced to a different brand of literature—a form with a few extra levels. These books require me to truly reflect and grasp the protagonist’s story as well as the author’s message. Usually, these books revolve around the complexity of a character instead of the complexity of a plot. I agree that these books take a little more effort than the ones I’m used to reading, but what you can take from them is that much more impactful.
Regrettably, the trend that’s evident in theatre is, in essence, true in the reading teenagers of my generation. I admit that it’s difficult to find a teenager who, when looking for a book to read, would walk to the Literature aisle as opposed to the Teen Fiction aisle at Barnes and Noble. Books such as Twilight, Pretty Little Liars, and The Hunger Games have all been widely successful, and have all been found on this dreaded aisle.
The book Twilight by Stephanie Meyer is one read by many teenage girls. It involves a relatable, independent girl named Bella who finds herself trapped in the world between vampires and werewolves. “As of October 2010, the series has sold over 116 million copies worldwide with translations into at least 38 different languages around the globe. The four Twilight books have consecutively set records as the biggest selling novels of 2008 on the USA Today Best-Selling Books list and have spent over 235 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list for Children's Series Books” (“Wikipedia: Twilight (series)” 1). Though the series has been undoubtedly successful, some critics find the story to be a bit overhyped. Many have gone as far to say the series involves poor writing. While comparing Stephenie Meyer to JK Rowling, Allison Flood quoted Stephen King, saying, "the real difference (between J. K. Rowling and Meyer) is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer, and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn. She's not very good…People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it's very clear that she's writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books” (1). Meanwhile, Elizabeth Hand of The Washington Post wrote in her article Love Bites, "Meyer's prose seldom rises above the serviceable, and the plotting is leaden." (1). So, can we blame teenage girls for not recognizing what these major critics do, or should we be content that they’re reading at all?
In school, I’m used to reading a large variety of books. I acknowledge that some are more exciting than others, which is sometimes due to lack or abundance of dimensions to them. One book in particular is Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. At first, the plot seems simple: an old fisherman ventures out to sea in an attempt to finally catch a fish after failing numerous times. Throughout the story, however, the reader is introduced to many different angles Hemingway could have been trying to represent through the old man’s story. The plot’s simple enough that you can essentially dig as deep as you want into it. In a review of the book, Old Man and the Sea Review, Bob Corbett says, “The Old Man and the Sea is a magnificent story. At one level it is the tale of a man and a fish, at another, a story of man versus nature, at yet another, the story of the culture of manhood, courage, bravery in the face of existence, and at yet another a history of what life was like when individuals were more the central actors on the human stage and not groups or organizations” (1). The book’s plot isn’t quick, there aren’t many twists, and it takes a bit of effort to become entirely betrothed in it. However, when inspected thoroughly, the book has a lot to offer the reader.
So, which book’s better, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, or Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea? Technically, there is no answer. It’s a matter of liking and, quite frankly, your preference of either literary or commercial fiction. "‘(People) are less comfortable with novels,’ John Updike said in an interview, after the dismal sales of his 2000 novel Gertrude and Claudius. ‘They don't have a backward frame of reference that would enable them to appreciate things like irony and allusions. It's sad.’ Asked in a recent interview with the Star about the conditions for literary fiction, Philip Roth commented, "They have deteriorated. There's just no doubt about it .... The status of literature was much higher when I began writing. There were a number of serious critics that was much greater than now. The number of serious readers was much greater than now. The number of distractions was much fewer than now” (“Why Novelists are Nervous” 1). This is an example of just how much our opinions have changed, and will continue to change, because of our lack of effort to work for the repayment a good book has to offer.
Lazy is a good word to use when describing what our culture has become. We feel the need to sit back and wait to be taken care of, either with a chapter out of TTYL by Lauren Myracle or an episode of 16 and Pregnant. Hardly ever do we take on any sort of task, such as reading or watching a play, that requires the same amount of attention from us as the book or play is willing to pay back. The way that we judge things is a good reflection of how our customs have changed. To get back on track, we need to put forth a gallant effort to renew the gratitude we once had and to clear the line between what is boring and what is brilliant.
“Why novelists are nervous - thestar.com .” News, Toronto, GTA, Sports, Business, Entertainment, Canada, World, Breaking - thestar.com . N.p., n.d. Web. 6 May 2012.
Battaglio, Stephen . “Who Are TV's Top Earners? - Today's News: Our Take | TVGuide.com.” TV Guide, TV Listings, Online Videos, Entertainment News and Celebrity News | TVGuide.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2012.
Corbett, Bob. “Book review -- Ernest Hemingway THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA .” Webster University. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2012.
Daisy. “Justin Bieber 3rd Most Powerful Celebrity of 2011 by Forbes | The Justin Bieber Shrine.” The Justin Bieber Shrine 2012. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 May 2012.
Flood, Allison. “Stephen King rubbishes Twilight author Stephenie Meyer | Books | guardian.co.uk .” Latest US news, world news, sport and comment from the Guardian | guardiannews.com | The Guardian . N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2012.
Hand, Elizabeth. “Love Bites.” Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2012.
Lorraine. “5 Fun Facts About Justin Bieber.” HollyWire. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.
“Twilight (series) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2012.