In Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, by John Ralston Saul, (Penguin 1993), the author discusses how Marie Antoinette became the first star in the modern sense of the word. He wrote “She was never really the Queen of France. That was merely her role. She played queen.” (My italics.)
This ditzy Austrian had a huge influence, unfortunately, despite being dragged from her carriage by a mob and, eventually, murdered. The leader as star has become de rigueur for the Western world.
Since then, it’s possible to become a star for practically anything, and often, curse it, for practically nothing. In Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture (Schwartz 2005), author Ariel Levy discusses (among many other things) how Paris Hilton, the cUS$28 million dollar heiress to the Hilton hotel fortune, actually became famous for a leaked (?) tape of her having sex. “The net result of these adventures in amateur pornography was that Paris Hilton became one of the most recognisable and marketable female celebrities in the country.”
This would once have been perceived as disgusting. At the very least, as troubling. Not that long ago, she would have become a disgraced exile.
If only. Nowadays, maybe she should run for office.
At least she can talk fairly coherently.
Nowadays, our politicians, at least at their worst, find it necessary to act as if they, too, are stars. If only they thought it necessary to act like responsible leaders. Even Obama, who I have some respect for, succumbs to guest spots on talk shows. At least he (and his advisors, I presume), dictate what he says on Letterman and its ilk.
Unlike our own ‘leader’ who mumbled through some partially inaccurate, risible crap about New Zealand at the behest of the Letterman shows’ producers.
Anything for the limelight.
For we have, as New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, a colourless individual at the best of time blessed, thanks to venality and greed, with a considerable fortune. And very little else. He doesn’t speak well, apparently makes decisions on poll results and plays politics like a boy trying to stay in with all the bullies while still being perceived as Mr Nice Guy by the other pupils. That he was the best the National Party could offer speaks volumes for the type of people in the party. Worse, it speaks volumes for anyone who voted for the schmuck.
New Zealand is a country, Mr Key. It comprises people. It’s not a medium-to-large business. And it doesn’t need an uncharismatic bore to pretend at being its star. If the uncharismatic bore did some Prime Ministering, things might be different. Or does that interfere with swanning about as a c-grade celeb?
For, despite an utter lack of charm or even an attractive simplicity, our Key just can’t resist a TV camera. He’s drawn to it like a moth to a tungsten light bulb. His performance on American TV was pure embarrassment. If he had good advice he wouldn’t have done it. Key patently does not get good advice, unlike his Labour predecessors.
If he’d had any nerve at all, Key would have insisted on saying what he wanted to say, to promote his image and his country, but no, the lure of a TV spot at any cost proved irresistible. He just did what was expected, as any gauche and third-rate plenipotentiary from a vassal state would have.
Then Key cut short his US travels to appear in Samoa after the devastating quake. Coincidentally, the beach he inspected was close to where he had stayed, in considerable luxury, just a short time before.
I would like to imagine he was in the island state from some kind of concern. Concern for the people of Samoa, not for the luxury resort business he has so enjoyed.
But I suspect he was there for a different reason.
The TV camera.