A Twelfth Night post about contemporary "performance life".
[Reader be forewarned, this post is much ado about nothing.]
I always get Twelfth Night mixed up with Midsummer's Night Dream - just because I love all the craziness and fantasy in Midsummer's Night - which I romantically associate with Twelfth Night festivities. Since the traditional date for the feast of the Epiphany marks the beginning of Carnival, one might understand why my fantasy gravitates towards such characters as Oberon and Titania, along with Puck and the other fairies.
In a sense contemporary life has become all about performance - in just about every respect, but none more so than living one's life online. (Which may account for my boredom.) Nearly every one of us can become excessively self-aware in our chosen online avocation - perhaps none more so than YouTube performers, bloggers and Facebook addicts.
In the US I think it all started in the 1950's with television shows such as Candid Camera and Bandstand. Dick Clark's American Bandstand really capitalized on teenage narcissism watching kids dance for the camera. By the late '60's, kids were performing for the cameras. And don't forget all the live game shows where ordinary people got on camera acting like greedy fools.
With the advent of video and cam-corders, used for surveillance and fun, somehow many of us accustomed ourselves to the awareness someone is watching... or maybe some of us just liked to pretend someone was observing us.
Just shooting off my mouth now...
I worked with a fellow who mastered the art. We worked together in fashion in the '80's and became friends - we made each other laugh. 'Freakishly' tall, he was one of the most wildly entertaining guys I knew. Anyway, when he'd get a few drinks in him he went into full performance mode, becoming a case study in gender disorientation. For instance, in the bar, on his way to the men's room he'd position himself like a runway model, look down at his shoes, throw his head back like a woman tossing her hair, and he'd walk like a runway model across the bar to the men's room. I would be laughing so hard I'd be crying - the return trip was priceless because he'd come back and ask, "What?" (As in asking what was I laughing about.) The best part was how he pretended not to be aware of his performance... nor to understand when I complimented him, "You never even looked at the camera!" Good performance.
So anyway - why did I tell you that? Because it is stupid and silly and it is Twelfth Night and it never fails to make me laugh. And because bloggers and commenters can be kind of like that. Many of us put on our best performance online, projecting ourselves in the way we imagine ourselves, fully aware that someone is watching - or reading. Not unlike my former friend, we sometimes perform for the camera, as it were. We have accustomed ourselves to performing for 'our public'. We've groomed ourselves, as it were, in the consciousness someone is watching, someone is paying attention to us - perhaps with the secret hope, one of these days, we might even be discovered... Protesting our innocence of course, denying any artifice or conceit or ambition or self-promotion on our part. I think that is what makes some blogs boring - phonies.
Suddenly I've become extremely self-aware and I'm so scared what people will think of me after writing this...
Yeah, so anyway pumpkins, I'm actually much too bored to finish this post...
And suddenly the truth came to me, as we stood there, trembling, searching, at our point of fulcrum. There were no watching eyes. The windows were as blank as they looked. The theatre was empty. It was not a theatre. They had told her it was a theatre, and she had believed them, and I had believed her. To bring us to this - not for themselves, but for us. I turned and looked at the windows, the facade, the pompous white pedimental figures. - John Fowles, The Magus
Photo: From Sartorialist