This blog is, at its heart, for sharing my reviews.  When I don’t like something, though, I will explain all the reasons why.  I’ll also acknowledge when it seems the people behind a work were well-intentioned or gave it their all.  I do respect that.  However, the average person is not so polite about sharing their disgust.  That’s why the site Rotten Tomatoes is called what it is, as it’s an analogy to a hostile audience throwing tomatoes in protest at live performers.  The peanut gallery can be cruel, and it seems they’re crueller than ever before.

Bad reviews always sting, but in the age of the internet, a bombing performance can go viral.  When that happens, you’ve gone from famous to infamous (and no, that’s not a good thing).

The sad thing about today’s society is that we seem to revel in failure.  Well, revel isn’t the word.  Get off is more appropriate, or if you want to sound more sophisticated, look up Schadenfreude.

Technically this isn’t new.  Back when I was growing up we had The Gong Show.

Yes, The Gong Show was all about public humiliation.  However, the “reach” of any single contestant was fairly narrow.  You rarely heard about any one performance around the watercooler the next day.  Also, most of the contestants seemed like they were in on the joke, that maybe their performance was intentionally comedic.  There wasn’t really any pretense that the show was trying to find real talent.  They deliberately sought out “bad” stuff.

Then we get to the 2000s.  Now we have the internet and American Idol, and we have our first famous “viral fail”, William Hung.

Hung was tried, convicted, and executed in the court of public opinion for the sin of not realizing he’s untalented.

It’s unfortunately true that out of the total pool of people trying to “make it” in the creative arts, a large chunk of them aren’t very talented, but they don’t seem to be able to see it.  While yes, all art is subjective, when something is bad enough, the effort doesn’t even win a small niche of defenders.

The next “viral fail” is Chocolate Rain, now clocking over 100 million hits.

Rebecca Black’s auto-tune-heavy Friday is racing soon behind with 99 million hits.

Our celebration of failure is so insane that Black’s video-blog reaction to the haters itself has over 2.4 million hits.

 

And now we have Corey Feldman channeling Michael Jackson.

Now, the song’s not very good, but the fact of the matter is, Corey Feldman’s an ex-child star and it’s probably a miracle the guy’s still upright.  I just can’t help but feel sorry for the guy, and hope he has some sort of breakout role like Travolta got in Pulp Fiction.  Here’s a reminder of what he’s been through, despite his “fame”.

I think this episode says more about the public’s appetite for failure than it does about Corey Feldman who is just trying to find a way to remain in showbiz without being seen as nothing but a laughing-stock.

The search for approval in the eyes of the public is a primal need.  We can say sticks and stones don’t matter, but it does.  There’s something deep in the reptilian brain that craves approval.  And today, more than ever, with our Facebook likes and swipe-left/swipe-right mentality, that need for approval is up-front and center more than ever.  So you can understand why the drama of someone failing like this seems somehow even more important than the presidential election or another terrorist bombing or police shooting.  But maybe sometimes we should step back and take a good look at what we’re doing by becoming so obsessed with approval and rejection, getting it and giving it.

There’s one guy who has been the object of just as much professional ridicule as praise in his long career, someone who was “failing” in music long even before The Gong Show.  He has probably the most poignant thing to say about our celebration of failure.  Take it away, Bill:

 

 

 

Advertisements