Thursday 6 June 2013


Until recently, only royalty and Hollywood stars were in control of their image. We saw and heard whatever their publicity managers fed to the media. Only their nearest and dearest knew what was going on behind the scenes – the nip and tuck, the screaming fights, the drunken bouts, the overdoses. But that was in prehistoric times, circa Elvis Presley. Now the nearest and dearest are kept out of the picture as well. Angelina Jolie’s father heard about her operation the same way you and I did: through the media. He was as surprised as anyone, according to

Ah, the mediating media, channeled by Jolie. Only she knows who she is. Which makes me wonder: Does she and her kids communicate via Twitter? Is the Brangelina duo a cozy media construct? Do the two lovebirds have actual first-hand knowledge of each other? Or do they just read the updates provided by their respective publicity reps?

But these are modern times, and even ordinary people want to control the narrative of their lives.  Formerly, if you had a problem with substance abuse, you confessed it to your partner, or your shrink, or your clergyman. Quaint, wasn’t it? Now you take your confession to a publisher, and your partner can read your version of the events in the book. If he has a different version, let him write his own book. In the last two months, the confessions of two hard-drinking women hit the market with a best-selling thunk: Jowita Bydlowska’s Drunk Mom and Lauren Davis’ The Empty Room. So if you feel a nervous breakdown coming on, or a desire for rehabilitation, don’t waste a good story on your loved ones. I mean, what can they do for you? Take your story to the media, and with any luck you’ll cash in on your misery.

Of course, image control for ordinary folks isn’t entirely new. The 70s gave us the Xeroxed Christmas letters, which let us all know exactly as much as the writer wanted us to know about his/her innermost feelings: nothing, that is. The Christmas brag & good news sheet has now been replaced by Facebook and Twitter, which allows for by-the-minute updates and frequent polishing of your image without requiring a copier or an expensive PR machine.

The latest narrative to be controlled are prom dances. Whatever you do, DO NOT sidle up to the girl of your choice in the cafeteria or try cornering her by the locker to pop the question: Will you go to the prom with me? That method sucks. It gives you no control over where the conversation will go or the spin she’ll put on it later when she talks to her girlfriends. No, remember that going to the prom is the climax of your coming of age story. You need to take control of that narrative by going public with your PROMPOSAL. Say it with a balloon-covered hallway or a rose strewn path to her house, or deliver the message via a flash mob. And of course document it on YouTube. Fix that narrative for eternity!

Abigail Pugh (The Star, May 26) explains it all to us. People prefer Facebook and carefully staged YouTube performances because it allows them to edit and retouch. You choose your identity like soup du jour and change it depending on your conversation partner. So much easier than face-to-face interaction. And safer, too.  

Hmm, is that why I’m blogging?

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