There’s this phenomenon I’ve noticed. Getting ‘Owned’. No, I don’t mean ‘beaten in a game/sport/argument’. I mean, ‘getting Owned’.
It became very noticeable recently during an event called the Eurovision Song Contest – a curious ritual that has beset the planet since 1956. Australia was permitted an entry in 2015 (to mark the 60th Anniversary), and again in 2016. Aus put forward its promising front runner, Dami Im, and it’s here that my commentary starts.
You see – Dami Im is, in some ways, my neighbour, or at least this is how the media has worked it up to be. More than that; she is Every Australian’s Neighbour. Unless you’re Korean that is, in which case she’s your neighbour and all those upstart Johnny-come-lately Aussies can just wait in line to rub off a bit of her fame thank you very much!
But it’s damn hard to get Owned. Here’s how it went for young Ms Im: born in South Korea she emigrated to Australia at the age of nine. (Australia, it needs to be noted, is (generally speaking) one of the most racist places in the world. My heart goes out to her entire family trying to integrate themselves into this strange new world.) So okay there she is, dropped into a ‘city’ called Logan (one of those ‘Satellite Cities‘ that keep springing up all around the world at the stroke of an administrator’s pen, although in the case of Logan it is more technically an ‘Edge City‘.)
I live in Logan, BTW.
She goes to school, then on to a rather exclusive high school where she kept her head down by all accounts and did not reveal or exhibit her long-held dream of public singing. She’d already achieved very highly elsewhere in musical arts. (It’s all in Wikipedia, go read it) Moving on from that she pursued her dream and eventually achieved a notable victory in some TV entertainment thing called ‘The X Factor’. (I don’t watch TV.)
And POW! Suddenly my local paper is filled with huge headlines about ‘Our Star!’ and how she went to John Paul College and oh how wonderful/notable she’d been and an interview or two with the principal, and yadda-yadda-yadda. Discovered. Owned!
Next round: She gets chosen to represent Australia at this Eurovision thingy. And she reaches the semi-final .. and she reaches the final … and Australia is on the edge of its collective seat!
And suddenly the media go nuts. The pwning process ramped up to the nth degree! Suddenly she became Australia’s New Darling. She was So Australian! Hell yeah, mate! Totally! The perfect representative! “We all love ya, Dami! Go, go, go for gold!” Australia adored her fashion sense and her confidence and her pride and most of all Her Voice.
This is all going on and I’m slowly waking up to phenomenon via Facebook and I’m like, oh, wait, isn’t this the same woman who did okay at some talent thing a while back? I google it. Oh yeah. So I got onto YouTube and I caught up on her performances and I was all like … ‘Why is everyone raving about that voice?’
(Let me digress: I have a tin ear I’ll admit it, but even though I tried, I came away thinking, “Yes, it’s strong, but it does not dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee. It has more the beauty of a rhinoceros beetle.” I believe she has yet to find the songs that match her voice. What she was trying to sing were ‘too girly’, and consequently she could not actually render them well. Sure, sure, she hit the big notes, she had the power, but her voice … to my tin ear … was rather awful, actually. Personal opinion only.)
So, Media Storm, Mega-Hype, everyone was pumped to sit down and watch her win … and she didn’t. But Aus had a new idol and celebrated her anyway. I’m not knocking it; it was a really huge achievement. Props to her and to everyone who supported her, mentored her, put her through her musical paces and helped her go places! And I guess she came home and the cameras were all there and they threw rose-petals under her feet etc etc.
What’s it called, ‘Power-shaving‘? Rub yourself against the Alpha-Ape and you’ll feel important too. Suddenly Dami belonged to Australia / Queensland / Logan / her old school / the supermarket where she had a holiday job / the guy who once sold her dad tyres… and I imagine Korea was working hard at reclaiming her too as Their Own Daughter. Fine. That’s true. She is.
But the thing is – nations, neighbourhoods and high schools never do it for anyone else. We don’t mob someone in the street just because she/he was born here/grew up here/studied here.
Nope. You have to be Really Frickin’ Famous first, then it begins.
Australia is notable for doing this ‘Owning’ think. Just off the top of my heard they have claimed Phar Lap (racehorse), Split Enz (band), John Clark (comedian), and Russel Crow (actor) all originally from New Zealand. Oh the audacity! (But not Ged Maybury.) (Yet.)
But there’s a dark underbelly to the phenomenon. I’ve experienced it. Move into a new place (town, district, street, nation) and even though you’ve already got something – a bit of fame, a backstory, talent, achievements – they don’t matter a jot because you’re not ‘native’. Not born here? – Tough shit. Didn’t go to school here? – Tough shit. Wrong colour? Funny accent? – “Tough shit, mate! I don’t care about your Nobel Prize in physics, you’re nobody in this town. Oh look! That kid just came 3rd in the national physics competitions! Holy wow! Call the newspaper! Give him the front page. HE’S A LOCAL!”
I’ve seen far more column space giving to some no-name first-time hey-wow-this-woman-just-wrote-her-first-children’s-book than I ever got in a certain town.
Seriously, it is a thing. If you’re the ape that walks in from outside, you’ll always be the outsider. The locals will never forget it. Be remarkable and they’ll yawn and look the other way. But do something exceptionally extraordinary and suddenly it’s a game-changer.
And if you do anything bad you’ll be branded forever as ‘the one from Over There‘.
Anyway, I’ve noticed it. It intrigues me. It’s a thing, that’s all.
[BTW: I’ve been well-received here in many other ways. I know hundreds of good-hearted Aussies that have made me feel welcome in many lovely ways. Thx, peeps!]