Invisibility and Other Anti-Powers

Sára Schmiedová
Stage in three… two… one…
The moment is here. The moment that hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of people have been waiting for. All unique individuals who, at this very moment, have one thing in common: a love of the music of a specific artist. But what goes on when the lights go out, behind the cameras and pretty smiles in the magazines?

There can be no doubt that the entertainment industry is an extremely stressful one, and that the demands made by those in charge are far too high and often close to being unrealistic. It certainly isn’t a bed of roses, but following your dream is worth the hard work nonetheless. The point is, where exactly do we draw the line between immensely strict leadership and hard work? When is this line crossed, and what is too much?

Undoubtedly, the everyday reality of this industry is difficult to put up with, and many of us ‘ordinary’ people cannot imagine living under such conditions. Artists are often under seemingly never-ending pressure. Hardly anyone could live a life like theirs for long without losing certain parts of themselves.

Perhaps the industry was built like this at the very beginning. It often seems that if someone does not look as if they have just left a fashion show, they have little chance of success, no matter how talented they are. What’s more, looking good sometimes makes up for a lack of talent. Having good looks really does seem to be the ultimate requirement for success, even though it is ultimately wrong.

This is an important issue, and thankfully it is one that is discussed a lot nowadays. More people are starting to realize what it is about, and they are no longer afraid to speak up on the matter.

Continuous pressure can lead to much more serious problems, including mental health issues. Having thousands of people, social media accounts and magazines talk about your appearance, talent and even your personality has its consequences. This is something that goes hand in hand with fame and recognition, of course. Still, it is something that needs to change in order to make the reality of this industry a bit more accepting, tender and humane.

Often it is not simply about the music. Releasing wonderful songs isn’t enough; artists need to engage with their audience on other levels, too. This is where social media comes in. It is hard to imagine fame without millions of followers on every social media platform that one can think of, and what often comes with this is a certain responsibility to fans, as celebrities can easily become the centre of their world.

Having said that, I believe it is important to reflect on a phenomenon that has become an everyday part of the online world – so-called “stan culture”, an often unhealthy obsession with a celebrity. I reckon it is known to most users of social media platforms, as it is so widespread and is becoming rather difficult to hide from.

Of course, it is impossible to think of fame without fandom, as celebrities owe their high standard of living to their fans. Fandom can surely be an immense source of support and inspiration for stars and a reason for them to keep going. Unfortunately, the crossing of the invisible border of privacy, as well as the literal, physical one, is becoming ever more common. Somehow many fans, or “stans”, feel they have the right to know everything about their favourite celebrity. Another problem is that of dating. Many famous people prefer to keep their romantic life secret, and it’s no wonder they choose to do so. There have been many cases of partners becoming the centre of attention and a target for bullies on social media. Many members of stan culture somehow feel they should have a say in everything that happens in their idol’s life, as well as their choice of partner. And if they don’t like the person? Why not scare them away, right?

I have never understood the audacity of people who think they have the right to decide on the smallest details of someone else’s life, just because a big portion of their work happens in the online sphere. In some cases, it can be difficult to tell who the real boss is. Is it the company or the fans?
As type these words, I cannot stop myself from thinking of one specific artist, whose name I wish to keep a secret, as it doesn’t feel quite right to “reveal”. A member of a highly successful band, his solo career going unbelievably well, yet he could not go on: his demons were too deeply embedded. He was admired and loved by thousands, yet he could no longer stand his life.

At the end of the day, money, fame and the adoration of millions don’t mean a thing if one is haunted by inner demons. I wonder if this particular artist would still be among us without the stressful reality of his life. Would a different occupation have made a difference to him? Sometimes, the troubles in our souls are stronger than anything else, but there can be no doubt that the demands of fame and the entertainment industry play a huge part in matters like these.

Invisibility is widely seen as one of the greatest of all superpowers. All things have their negative aspects, though, and perhaps many incredible artists haunted by their own demons would still be among us if they had been seen as humans, not just screen idols.