After watching hours and hours of the Olympics this summer, I began to think about why my eyes were glued to the screen with such intensity. Then it occurred to me: watching the Olympics is so different than watching the programming I’m normally fed. Unlike most popular media today, the Olympics feature amazing, awe-inspiring talent, the kind of talent that is even almost incomprehensible at times. And we’re not used to that.
In our modern era of the Internet and reality television, the meaning of “talent” is being redefined. Before the days when starring on Real Housewives made you instantly famous and allowed you to build a successful brand, like specialty cocktails or toaster ovens, there were hurdles to jump through, there was credibility to earn, and there were discriminatory circumstances to shed in order to be able to showcase your talent for the world.
Now, the barriers to proclaiming your talent are gone and establishing a voice in any field is achievable for anyone who can log online.
But there is a drawback to this increased access. The line between real talent and fabricated credibility is blurred, causing our culture, at times, to fall from what is true and honest because of our loosened expectations of what being talented really means.
In my own personal world, I have a hard time choosing sides in this argument, but it is a question I continue to consider nonetheless. Do I want the talent we see to be decided solely by the cultural elite that have the power to judge worthiness? I don’t think so.
As a student aspiring to establish a voice, I have the ability to publish my thoughts and words despite my young age and my lack of experience. However, the trend in popular culture scares me because I see the trivial, ridiculous, and often fake triumph over the well constructed, thoughtful, and intelligent.
Is Kim Kardashian talented? Her annual income would suggest that she is extremely talented. Where we put our money is what we place value in, but does getting someone to buy into you as a brand mean you’re talented? I’m not so sure. Rather, I think it affirms your persuasiveness, determination, aggressiveness and, of course, sexiness.
On the other side, there is Tavi Gevinson, a 16-year-old fashion blogger turned Founder and Editor-In-Chief of her own online magazine, Rookie. Surely without the access to the internet at 11-years-old, Gevinson wouldn’t have been able to establish her blog, garner a followership in the millions, and reach the level of success she has achieved with her online magazine. And Gevinson’s work is the kind of cultural savior that I believe we need. Her work is the kind that is, as I described, well constructed, thoughtful and intelligent.
So where does that leave us? Kim Kardashian and Tavi Gevinson are using open media platforms to move their ideas forward, but in drastically different ways.
In the day of unlimited, unbarred content, I believe it is the responsibility of the consumer to practice discernment while realizing that their actions in supporting or rejecting media content affects our culture as a whole and encourages or diminishes quality work.
What do you think? Are we trivializing talent by watching reality TV, or are we just balancing our media diet of fruits and veggies with a little slice of pie?