by Hannah Weintraub
April 19, 2013
I used to play guitar. Then, one day, I exclaimed to a friend that I didn’t need to learn how to play guitar anymore. I was happy to just find someone to play with me as I sang. He shook his head and said to me, “A girl who can sing and play an instrument: She is unstoppable.”
Unfortunately, this statement is too frequently untrue. More often than not, even the girl who can sing and play must have just the right look and just the right expression of gender, and also a touch of crazy, in order to make waves. Otherwise, the music industry has the tendency to tear girls up and put them back together into a more “acceptable” artist.
The music industry has seen so many young women crash and burn that I’m surprised these artists haven’t earned their own genre on iTunes. Here are just a few high-profile “troubled artist” examples: Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning, Britney Spears received psychiatric treatment, and Demi Lovato went to rehab.
It’s hard to tell if the music and entertainment industry attracts women who already have a high propensity for erratic behavior or if the general pressure of the environment pushes them into it. At any rate, media and advertisers seem to be interested in dictating the behavior of mainstream women artists in a way that doesn’t apply to their male counterparts. These pressures push women to two character extremes: the innocent, sweet girl-next-door type or the crazy, wild party animal. There are few women performers who can stand somewhere in the middle of these polarizing personas. What if a star dares to fall from her predetermined character mold? People from all areas ogle and judge her as if it is an astronomical malady.
This pressure to conform to a specific archetype does not just come from the media. The push also comes from companies that peddle an artist’s reputation as if it were a product itself. Some brands even capitalize on the unusual and tragic antics of a singer to generate hype for themselves. A recent article in the New York Times explained that many companies use popularity scores to select their spokeswomen. Interestingly, certain higher-end beauty and fashion companies, such as MAC cosmetics, are more inclined to hire more controversial stars with lower scores to represent their products. So does Lady Gaga, who has a line with MAC, always feel it in her heart to be a meat-wearing “monster,” or is the lure of advertiser money part of the inspiration to wear unusual outfits and act out?