I’ve just watched Beckii: Schoolgirl Superstar at 14 on the BBC iPlayer (originally on BBC Three last night). It chronicles the fortunes of Rebecca Flint/Beckii Cruel, her family and finding global fame.
There are plenty of things that are really interesting about the documentary; from the way the Internet can make stars of people, the concept of multiple identities across different cultures and the conflict of interest between parent and offspring. (That last one may just be some unsympathetic editing towards her father, Derek, but even so, it made me think about childhood success and the parents wanting “in”).
The aspect I really want to talk about is the fandom, or inappropriate fandom that the girls received.
The film devotes much of the middle section towards this, but mostly parries it off as being a “cultural difference”, especially when her manager is asked about it. My question is: just because another culture allows a fixation with young, female teenagers, does that make it acceptable? Or to spin it around, because British (Western? I hate that word though) culture doesn’t allow it, does that mean it is wrong? For sure, I got a slightly uneasy feeling watching parts of that film, but of course I’ve internalised the British view.
Incidentally, I think Beckii has an amazingly level head on this, perhaps more so than her parents and manager. Her piece to camera after she receives the bass guitar is very considered, and her take on the “cultural difference” is equally sensible, where she talks about making sure she is happy (31mins in on iPlayer).
I think working to get away from the sexual side , that’s why we’ve turned down a lot of offers for [?] magazines and everything because we don’t want to do that and I never want to do that. I mean I’m 14 years old and even if [?] “oh, its just a different culture”, even so, I’m a British person with a British mindset and I think it is wrong so, yeah.
My basic problem is that if we assume that 14-16 year old girls getting attention from 45-54 year old males (27mins) isn’t a problem but part of the culture, then why are is it important to make sure that the girls clothing is so carefully checked (29mins and 10mins) and that their “look” (from 9mins) of large eyes, chiselled chin is so important. From 9-14 mins is particularly illustrative of this.
To me, printing photobooks of a 14 year old girl – where the girl is the product, not like a clothing catalogue – and making out that it isn’t sexual/objectifying doesn’t quite add up. Part of me wonders if someone, somewhere, is ignoring the “elephant in the room” on this.
That is not to say that printing her photobooks and other merchandise is necessarily wrong. I want to explore why and if behaviour of those consuming those materials and generating that market is acceptable. I mean surely she should be able to publish whatever materials she wants, and it is up to those consuming them to be responsible in the way that they contact her and behave to her. Pragmatically however, should she censor herself to minimise the risk of unwanted attention?
Obvious follow-up questions are: is there ever an age for objectification as above? Is this solely a problem for girls (cf. Justin Bieber)?
Maybe I’m coming at this with too much of a gender and culture bias? Anyone else have thoughts?