Tag Archives: Thoughts

Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model @ Bristol Old Vic (Studio)

The basic message of this post is going to be go see this show if you can! This was one of the stand out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe that I unfortunately never got to see. Luckily the show came to Bristol from the 20th-22nd of February so I jumped at the chance to go!

Bryony Kimmings, along with her 9 year old niece Taylor, have created a truly incredible performance of discovery that looks at how young ‘tweens’, particularly girls, are targeted by the media. Having spent time with her niece over the last year, Kimmings was able to look at the world through a nine year-old’s eyes, and see what a truly terrifying prospect it presents for their future. Uncontrolled access to a virtual world where violent and sexual images are more than easy to find for their curious minds; targeted marketing telling girls that they have to be famous, attractive and sexual to be valued in the world; what the curious and sponge-like mind of a 9 year old actually perceives – all this was explored within the space of an hour through song, dance, monologue, and stories.

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What really got to me about this performance, and genuinely made me well up, was the sadness and desperation that you feel from Kimmings – she is trying to fight against a world that is not obviously going to change. Although I have always and will always advocate a feminism that allows a woman to dress and act however they want as long as it is their choice (and doesn’t hurt anyone, but that is a general life rule I feel), Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model really made me question this. The popstars that young girls look up to – Jessie J, Katy Perry, Beyoncé – almost exclusively wear tight, short, or revealing outfits and dance sexually. While this is their absolute right – women should be able to be as sexual as they choose – the way this comes across to a young and malleable mind is that the only way to be famous and successful (and as Kimmings relays in a monologue, the two are now equated more than ever in the minds of tweens) is to act in this way. The element of choice is taken out of the equation.

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I happened to be looking at dance videos on YouTube the day after seeing the performance, and stumbled across a National Dance Competition in America. What I saw really quite disturbed me – girls as young as 8 in tiny hotpants and tight crop tops gyrating, grinding on the floor and displaying their crotches to the audience and judges in a supposed ‘Jazz’ routine. If they were above the age of 16 I probably wouldn’t have a problem with any of these dance moves. But they were young children who really did not need to be dancing like that in order to win a competition. While they were fantastic at the technical jazz dance moves, these added extras seemed totally inappropriate, and born of a culture where younger and younger children are taught to act in a disturbingly sexual way. Kimmings touches on this idea – when Taylor shows us the dance she learnt to a Katy Perry song, Kimmings does the actual routine behind her, showing just how sexualised Taylor’s idols are. Similarly, the show opens and closes with a dance to Jessie J’s song Domino. At the beginning Kimmings dances along with Taylor, happy to be joining in with something that her niece loves. But at the end, after this journey of discovery, Kimmings looks on upset, as she sees how Taylor is moving and singing along to a song that is far too grown up for her young mind.

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This idea that children and tweens (a term I really dislike) need a role model that doesn’t exclusively talk about sex, fame and money lead to the creation of Catherine Bennett – a palaeontologist/ popstar who sings about the things she cares about: friendship, polar bear, the future, her neighbourhood. She is managed by 9 year old Taylor, who helps her come up with song and video ideas. She works in a museum when she isn’t singing, she likes to read and hang out with her dog Cookie, and she likes to be silly so that others know it is ok. Towards the end of Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, Catherine is introduced to the audience, and we all join in with the actions to Animal Kingdom – this is a really fun element to the show that really showcases how great the Catherine Bennett project is. As Catherine sings Taylor to sleep, Kimmings comes out of character and speaks to us frankly, all while Taylor has her ears covered by noise cancelling headphones (which are used in the more adult sections of the performance). She laments how Taylor is already growing out of Catherine Bennett, and will soon have to face the real world, away from the magical glen they have created together. Kimmings talks about what she might pack into Taylor’s backpack so she can face this journey: feminist awareness, creativity, faith in herself. While we would expect all parents to want to give their children these tools, Kimmings reminds us that it cannot just be up to those who have produced children to take on this responsibility. We must all play a part in creating a better, safer, more equal world to which the younger generations can bring a fresh outlook, and maybe a new hope for the future.

Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model is beautiful, powerful, funny, tear-inducing and possibly the most thought provoking performance piece I have seen in the last 5 years.

Go see it if you can.

If not please support the Catherine Bennett project, and get Taylor the 1 million YouTube hits she deserves!

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https://www.facebook.com/socatherinebennett

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Thoughts on YouTube

When I tell my parents that I’m just ‘catching up on YouTube’ they look confused, shake their heads and walk away with an air of ‘young people these days’. They, and many people older than my generation, are well aware that YouTube is great for looking at funny videos of cats and babies, seeing music videos and film trailers. However there is a whole other role that has developed that makes YouTube much, much more important than this.

There are hundreds of communities that use YouTube to connect people, educate each other and share common interests -beauty, gaming, nerdfighters, vlogging – all these communities and many more have hundreds of thousands of creators and viewers contributing to them every day. Not only does this allow for a huge, unlimited exchange of ideas (often with both positive and negative results), but creators are able to connect much more readily with a large audience thanks to the popularity of YouTube around the world. Yes, much of what is uploaded to YouTube may not be of high cultural value, but a large portion of the content can be educational and entertaining for its dedicated viewers. The interactivity possible with YouTubers is probably where this success comes from; you are not just being talked at through a screen, but encouraged to ask questions, give comments and even contribute to future projects. This makes YouTubers far more accessible than your average celebrity, and so seem much more real. It also shows how attainable this online status is, and YouTubers are constantly reminding viewer of this fact when asked ‘how do I start making videos?’ – You just have to turn on a camera and talk about something you are interested in.

Moreover people are making entire careers out of being a professional YouTuber, some earning well over $1 million per year, yet general opinion of career opportunities in new social media are incredulous at best. I can cite countless hugely popular YouTubers who decided either not to go to University, or to drop out, because they see YouTube as a better and more focused use of their time (for example JacksGap and charlieissocoollike). Ever since I was small I was told that to achieve my goals in life I would need to go to University. This is just not true anymore, particularly for creative young people who can learn the skills they need by doing instead of by studying. Obviously this does not apply to everyone, but more and more people nowadays aspire to emulate the success of famous YouTubers, and being a professional vlogger, beauty guru or musician on YouTube is now a viable career choice for those willing to spend 2 or 3 years building up their channels. As we all know, an online presence is vital for new companies, bands and celebrities to gain the attention of the younger ‘tech-savvy’ generation, and YouTube personalities are particularly skilled at utilising all aspects of the internet to build up a following. Much like more conventional celebrities, YouTubers have thousands of followers on Twitter, crowds gather at meet ups to see them in real life, and the success of events like VidCon (a conference for online creators and consumers) shows just how well this new media is doing. Much like blogging, the possibilities for YouTubers are endless in terms of what they can progress to doing – there are collaborative channels, huge events, some have even migrated to radio and TV!

I think the point I am trying to get across in this post is that many people still don’t quite grasp the importance of new social medias; they have enormous power to connect people and ideas across the globe (in an unobtrusively profitable way as well!) So next time you hear somebody saying they are catching up on YouTube, maybe ask who they are watching? You may discover a whole new world of entertainment through your computer screen!

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