The Future of X
By Sandeep Mann
The author believes change of various quanta and directionalities has occurred in almost all spaces man had delved in. Herein, he projects what future awaits the constructs/ practices of the joke; and the celebrity status.
“Assassinations and murders have consequence from inception of seemingly innocuous jokes.”
“There is an increasingly heightened sense of individualism. A ramification is people are no more clubable in a few generic groups – a multifarious thousand times niche and hyperfine grouping bases have come up.”
Only newly created things/ construct may not have a past – they sure might have analogues or inspiring rudiments, but everything once created does have a future, resplendent or bleak.
The Future of The Joke
That part of the day, when you laugh – a well timed narration is thrown at you, with a twist at the end, and you smile (British humour) or go rapturous (uncouth local brawny humour). Jokes have regaled man since ages. It has been an evolutionary thing, or socially learnt? The infant makes some gurgling sounds, and breathes rapidly in bursts, which adults are quick to label as laughter.
Everyone has had different sensibilities, and thus no joke makes all laugh, yet every joke does make someone go happy. Then there are individuals who guffaw at every joke. Then there have been people and groups of people who would take offence at this or that joke. Assassinations and murders have consequence from inception of seemingly innocuous jokes.
The genesis could be traced to the collective tyranny of a society or a dominant class against a minor community hated or disliked for whatever reasons. It could be a patently visible oddity that forms the basis of a joke, or a manufactured interpretation around a subtle eccentricity or weirdness. This could be any class’s way of snubbing a dominant or subservient community. The famed movie The Name of the Rose comes to mind where the detective monk Sean Connery eventually traces surprise murders occurring in a forlorn monastery to attempts by senior clergy to keep a book joking God and religion hidden from public (the book is not destroyed, showing the clergy’s proclivity to occasionally dip in it for fun, yet is locked in an attic, with the book papyrus pages laced with cyanide so that the reader, in reading the book, licks his lips to turn the pages and thus gets poisoned). The royalty’s way in China of keeping people enthralled (and thus not too worried by serious matters of state and economy) has had creation of Comprachicos, kids who’ve been forced to wear a metal contraption/ vessel on their body or part of it, so that when they grow up, they have a grotesquely small or large head/ belly/ neck et al. Thus people could laugh at expense of these humans, and even pelt them with stones, sating their sadistic instincts.
Almost every culture we see, thus has jokes an integral part of its lore. Media is populated about fun made on expense of Poles, Irish, blondes, Texan, Baniyas, Jews, Jaats, Sardars, Pathans, and who not. Interestingly, in this who not list, appear celebrities, mostly politicians, and even neighbouring country’s citizens. How else does a hapless mediocrity laden public get even with its tormentors or perceived enemies. The genre of husband-wife, boss-employee pair jokes too are in plethora. The for men only sex jokes are uncountably large. In fact, as an innovation, they coined the term BOAJ ( = Butt of All Jokes; …That a Boaj was going, and such and so happened…) – you may conveniently plug in any replacement for the boaj.
However, we are achanging, and our society is under stress. Transparency via media is fired up, being an individual with a unique identity is getting celebrated. Then there are legal recourses available that purport to set abuse cases diminished. Media gives equal power to varied stances – so no more is collective voice of any particular opinion group domineering. Upmanship rooted in crass snobbery is no longer defensible. Media flares up any social event or misdemeanour into a juggernaut with unstoppable inertia – and people are highly opinionated; there is no way to reach out to people and clarify a different perspective whenst any specific point of view has gained anchor. There is pride in being unique – even if this is contra to whatever norms society prescribed in the past – the greater the divergence, more the merrier.
Then intolerance. Religion. Propriety based. Shoot-outs resulting from these. One can sense the palpable tension in stirring a hornet’s nest via a joke or lampoon. This is akin to road rage – it is too dangerous to get out of your vehicle to accost the wronging driver – for all you know, he might simply pull out a firearm and bang! Bananas is where we are going, not Bahamas.
Temperance has been foisted on us. You may call it sophistry or casuistry, but creative lingo groups or genuinely human interest groups, have already altered age old usages. Oh, don’t call somebody handicapped, employ a softer dignified word – so physically challenged looks fine. A jail is a horrible term, rechristen it into a Reform house or a Correction Facility. Humans are images of God, how can they be criminals – anyway, nobody is born a criminal – so let them be beckoned by a term like the Morally Challenged. No way appropriate to call anybody low IQ or imbecile or dolt, let them be intellectually challenged. Without going into the right/ wrong of this trend, and in no way questioning emergence of such flowery lingo/ euphemisms; the point being driven home is “stay off” – mind the limits people can be pushed to.
One can see, not an altered joke in future, one can see death of this custom/ practice. Maybe we might joke about robots or neutral Gods – only over a transition phase, only over a transition phase. It would invoke hell to ridicule or poke fun. Not even on the social media – the IP tracers remove anonymity, and so ask one to be responsible for one’s jokes. Who could defend his jokes, for all such attempts would fetch brashness and irresponsibly demeaning the attacked’s status/ identity lens views. The powerful rich and clout holding politicians, knowing that any joke could snowball into a career threatening proportion, would nip in the bud by getting the joke prankster hauled up by police/ law.
Maybe we would finally be compelled to say, not that a Boaj was going, but that a Boaj was coming!
The Future of The Celebrity Status
So and so Hollywood star commands a 50 million charge for a movie. The baseball coach commands a 119 million 5 year contract. The football swashbuckler has been signed for 259 million 3 year contract by that famous club.
Seen this? Heard this?
More. This guy bills 16 million for a television commercial. That lady in gossamer clothes, has been appointed as a brand ambassador by that obscenely expensive Swiss watch manufacturer for an undisclosed high 7 figure sum.
Even more? This dame would be the judge on that reality show on the idiot box –
the expected Television Rating Points would go through the roof. This famed (or ill-famed) interviewer is going to have this celebrity as a guest next Friday prime time.
We’re surrounded by celebrities galore – some domestic/ local, many international. They’ve glitz, fancy cars, leviathan mansions – unimaginably large number of twitter and instagram followerships – so that the world can get a privy look on their breakfast table or wardrobe or health status or romancing partners. For politicians, this translates to percentage voters aligned with them, indicating their chance at hustings. For media/ infotainment sectors, this shows viewership of movies and programs and road shows. For sportspeople, this again shows fan following translated into ticket revenues. For content stream star authors, this shows book sales.
And most of all, endorsement money, and merchandise sales are dependent on this hyped I-follow-You movement. With such a critical financial impact, no doubt this has become a science with elaborate measures to generate winning numbers. Huge “ancillary” industries flourish under the shadow of these celebrities.
With such highs, the socio-commercial lifespan of the celebrities is short, being limited to one flick case or few years, maxing at a decade, with few handful legends lasting longer. Apart from being talented in their chosen arena, multiple differentiation endeavours are tried, that at least a few click and skyrocket a nobody into a recognizable face. Talent alone ain’t count that much – invested money and sustained support by interested sponsor/ godfather has huge play.
Just like a product brand, a human brand is governed by Kapferer and Aaker models.
These provide strategic direction, purpose and meaning for a brand, sculpt its brand identity, and positioning in the market place. The traits that tilt buyer decision in favour of a brand choice, aid the consumers to match the personality of the brands they buy with the projected personality.
But look at trends around you. One, there is an increasingly heightened sense of individualism. A ramification is people are no more clubable in a few generic groups – a multifarious thousand times niche and hyperfine grouping bases have come up. Thus, it is well nigh impossible for a celebrity to appeal to a large membership group. Plus the overlaps of these niche segments as not on either-or basis, but on all-must-comply/conform basis, the memberships are exponentially reduced in size. Now you cater to either OnlyRomanticNotAction, or RomanticCumComedy (Romedy), or RomanticCumAction (Romaction). The football player the youth idolize has to be one who belongs to Manchester United, is still eligible bachelor, is also vegetarian, and possibly notorious for drug usage. Whew! The asks of the followers have gone too complicated. The newspaper or blog platform they like has to be right-right-centre, in favour of no gun laws, not philanthropic, and not reprieving those on death row, yet contributing charity to LBGTs. Where do you find a celebrity personality proposition that appeals to multiple such a narrowly defined segments which cobbled up assume a significantly large group worth tailing/ inspiring – for in this number, and the fierceness of allegiance lie the computation of endorsements billing.
Two, celebrities are descendants of the kings and queens of medieval times. One could thereby get a tangiblized aspiration profile – power, material assets, fame, security, support help et al. There was a vicarious pleasure in yesterdays when the movie screen flashed ambience of the hero kissing the lovely heroine. Now, with porous social norms, everyone has access to numerousity of opposite gender – you can kiss/ fondle/ share/ get close; what is the need of seeking a vicarious kick. You can flaunt a high end limousine while staying in the middle class economic bracket. Eating out is no longer an unaffordable splurge. Cloned fashion allow cheaper versions on ecommerce gateways.
Three, technology has brought down the access barriers. Visualise a person writing an article to the New York Times team for consideration of publishing. The editorial team would snootily process a handful every day from thousands queued up, which would make you recognized as an intellectual. Now, roving across facebook, blog and other fora – you can pour all your mental spewing, get high fives from your friend circle and online community – get your personalised website designed and running for the cost of a luncheon. Why would you queue up for a “yes” from some faceless non-transparent autocratic editors? You can cut your own music albums and videos, and have a go at being a celebrity. The flavour can be genuine authenticity – non-masked by heavy makeups and frills; it works as much for success and glory.
No doubt, exceptionality would always be recognized – but the incentives to create out of the world outcomes would diminish – so much pleasure and stimulation and gratification available for free, legally or pirated. As large corporate are finding it impossible to churn quantum leap innovations, for the business models no longer permit a long period leveraging, same would characterise individual efforts. Passionate long term investments of time and resources are becoming more and more counter to expected returns. We are going to be beset with mediocrity as a rule, relying on wonderful Shakespearean creation based on statistical output of millions chattering on typewriters, cameras and canvases.
Be prepared for 7 billion or so celebrities, none commanding astronomical tabs – all miniCelebrities.