Letters to the Editor

Bemoaning the Rise of Manufactured Performers

November 01, 2009

To the Editor:

Something's afoot and it's probably limping slightly. It appears to be a combination of economic opportunity, the Boomers Again, and a bit of cultural bereavement.

Exempting only Robin Hood, Don Troop's commentary on the collation of celebrity-based conferences seems to reveal a rather plaintive theme ("Springsteen, U2, Rod Serling, and Robin Hood," The Chronicle, September 26). As a boomer in good standing, I think we miss the genuine performers—you know, the real three-dimensional people who had complex personalities and a few warts not wholly covered by their PR makeup. Serling smoked incessantly, Springsteen and Bono occasionally misbehaved, but all were propelled by impressive, undeniable talent. They made a deep and lasting impact on all of us, and they still seem to be doing so. Young people still listen to the two musicians and watch Twilight Zone as well. All three made positive, lasting contributions to our culture and worldview.

What we now lament is the ascendance of manufactured performers. Corporations, notably Disney, have found gold in them thar hills. Without mentioning names, the worst offenders share several qualities: They are quite young, quite cute, quite sprightly, and possessed of modest talents. I do not perceive lasting value in their work beyond what it will mean for their own pocketbooks. Where are the Rolling Stones of yesteryear? Sniff.

Douglas Raybeck
Anthropology Professor Emeritus
Hamilton College
Clinton, N.Y.