Monday, July 27, 2015

Idol Worship?

Warning: This post is a pet peeve rant.

Is this idol worship? Or is it how “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” plays out in our society? Or are theater reviews written only by extroverted high-influencer personality types? I don’t know, but star power over substance, fame over news-you-can-use sure bugs me. Here are some examples of this pet peeve:

  • ·         The musical Pippin has been reimagined and is opening soon in Chicago. I’m interested in reading a summary of the story in the review to see if I’d like to see it. Not once did the newspaper reviewer mention anything but who was in the production and what they all were best known for. And yes, I’ve heard of some of those actors. But I wouldn’t shell out $46 to see any of them—or any actor, for that matter, even my favorites. I might spend the money for a poignant story and beautiful music. But apparently, stars trump story.
  • ·         Sometimes when I ask someone, “How about seeing this movie?” the response is, “Who’s in it?” I read the actors’ names and then ask the person if s/he’d like to know what the movie is about. “No.” Again, stars trump story
  • ·         I hear a radio announcer invite people to a marriage conference given by famous psychologist Dr. Mucketeemuck. No indication of what the conference focus would be. Conflict resolution? Date night 101? Talking about money? Rebuilding after an affair? No information helpful for deciding whether to invest a day at this conference. Just ooh, come hear Dr. Mucketeemuck. Star over substance.
  • ·         I’m excited to see the agenda for an upcoming writers workshop facilitated by award-winning writer Professor Clucketeecluck. If I signed up, would I learn about writing effective essays? Fiction dialogue? Fiction story arc? Fiction fact research? Devotionals? How-to books? Effective structure of critique groups? No clue. The invitation and agenda just say to come hear Professor Clucketeecluck. Star over substance.
Sometimes if I’m on the fence about a play, movie, or conference, knowing the players’ reputations helps me decide. But only after I know the story or substance interests me.

My pet peeve may be related to my marketing communications training: To sell the sizzle, tell benefits first, then features. If you first tell me this new sooper-dooper-doodad has 25 phalangees (thank you for that great word, Phoebe Buffay), I’ve dozed off by the time you get to the benefit of saving me time. If you first tell me sooper-dooper-doodad will save me time, I’m awake and impressed by the number of phalangees. First I want to know what I’ll learn at a conference or how much I might enjoy a play or movie’s story. That’s the benefit for me. The actors are secondary.

My gut sense is that society’s frequently placing higher priority on the Who’s Who than the What’s What runs deeper than backward marketing strategy. Maybe even to our desire to feel important by connecting with famous people in tiny, tenuous ways. We’re often blind to splendor in the ordinary, discontent with God’s and loved ones’ love, and worried we won’t make a difference unless we’re connected to someone we perceive is important.

Getting back to the question: Is this idol worship? In some cases, probably. Only God knows the motives of our hearts. Ironically, televised talent contests like American Idol get story and substance right. Regardless of contestants’ idol-worship or non-idol-worship reasons for seeking fame, through the show’s process, their stories are enriched by the substance of strategic, constructive criticism and serious hard work.

In the meantime … Please, advertisers and reviewers, just give me the story and the substance. If I want to know who’s going to be there, I’ll ask.

Oh, BTW, I name-dropped Phoebe Buffay for you readers who crave reading famous names and don't recognize Dr. Mucketeemuck or Professor Clucketeecluck. LOL

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