“Beckii: Schoolgirl Superstar at 14″

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?

Update: I just had this conversation with @Tom5mith on Twitter, about our take on the ‘moe‘ and ‘idol‘ culture. Relates strongly to our attempts as Brits to see through the cultural difference.

Nailing my colours to the “rainbow” mast

'Over the Rainbow' promo shot'Just finished catching up with last night’s Over the Rainbow on BBC1 and thought I’d nail my colours to the mast early on regarding who I think is going to place where, as well as a few observations on the show.

Firstly I just loved how brilliant David Grindrod (casting director) was in the first programme on Friday. Even when he gives good news he doesn’t sound excited, just delivers it and bids farewell. I like that level of emotional detachment when judging something like this; just seems to give integrity.

Also, I wonder what happened to cause the addition of the 4 extra girls into the call-backs at ‘Dorothy Farm’. I have trouble believing it was always going to happen to unnerve the other auditionees, so wonder what the motive was. Equally, it seems unlike a TV programme (with the judges) to openly admit they’d made a mistake. I wonder who in the production company/production team for the theatre show wanted those girls in contention. Regardless, they seemed to be right given that 3 out of the 4 went on to make it to the studio (Jessica, Steph and Emma), and 2 of them made it straight to the live shows (Jessica and Steph).

Also, we get it, Graham Norton is gay. Last year we had Nancy jokes in I’d Do Anything and now we have “friend of Dorothy” jokes. Now it has been made, I hope we can move on, but I doubt it!

Anyway with out further ado, my predictions for the series. I should say that I like my musical theatre to be very typical musical theatre, so my choices are probably quite traditional, so I’m going to say who I’d like to win and how I think that will differ from who will actually win it. Also, I’m only going to take the 10 that went straight through to the live shows: will come on to the wild cards later, who are subject to a public vote for the 11th place.

1. Jessica
2. Stephanie
3. Dani

    My top 3 all give off a sense of “musical theatre” I think. I can’t really put my finger on what marks someone out (to me) as theatrical rather than pop, especially when they were singing pop songs, but they stood out. Not sure the public will agree with my traditionalist casting but we shall see.

    I’m not going to try and rank the rest, as it is probably too early to say, so I’ll split them into 2 groups based on when I think they’ll go out. I think I’m probably going to be hugely wrong (I wanted Jodie out from very early on last year and she ended up winning), but I’ll give it a go.


    This group is probably the most interesting as there isn’t much that separates them, they are all nice to watch, but just don’t stick out. With all the training that they are bound to have, this could all change and they will push into the top, or won’t take it on board and so fall to the bottom.


    I really didn’t take to this group for mixture of reasons, but mostly for stage presence or dance. To coin the awkward American phrase; they don’t feel like a “triple threat”, and have something really lacking for my taste.

    Back in reality, I think that the public vote might punish Amy for having been a glamour model and keep Sophie in for a lot longer than I would. I also think Jenny might do quite well, which is why she is in my second group.

    In terms of the Wild Cards, I would have put through Emma, Tegan and Claire Harbourne over my group, but I did pick my top 7 out of the original 20, which I’m quite proud of! I’m surprised they didn’t keep in some of the slightly more “out there” contestants such as Tasheka or Claire Hillier, and wait for the public to oust them. While they aren’t my choice for Dorothy, I thought they were both good and would had made interesting characters for people to get behind (and maybe they still will). My prediction for wild card Dorothy is definitely Tegan. I both want her to be back in and think the public will too, so a strong contender!

    To see if I am right, you’ll have to watch the programme next Saturday on BBC1 (I’ll be catching up on iPlayer in the week…), and then by the end of the series I’ll have to give myself points for how well my predictions faired. If you think I am massively wrong then leave a comment putting me straight!