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written 2010 after seeing a doc about a young internet star



commentary • 19.08.10

I saw a documentary last night about a 14 year-old British girl who has become big in Japan after getting 12-million hits on YouTube dancing around in her bedroom.

I stayed with the film trying to get a sense of Rebecca Flint’s talent before realising she had little of it to speak of. Her attraction seemed to be her mere pubescence, her nubile teenager-ness if you like. The Japanese aren’t much fussed apparently when it comes to sexualising young women. They do it to a degree the Brits - still sexually repressed as they are - find distasteful. Curiously, the demographic where Rebecca’s following was smallest was among teenage boys. The largest was men in the 45-54 year-old bracket.

Also interesting was her matter-of-fact attitude to the whole thing. She was aware her fame could be just a passing phenomenon at which point she would happily go back to her ordinary life, finish her education, and start a career. It was the parents who were the zealous ones. They were painting big pictures of pop stardom. And sure enough, later in the documentary came the songwriting producers with talk of major labels and the like. It was clear Rebecca (aka Beckii Cruel) had minimal singing talent so this was going to be one of those novelty projects where the appeal lies in a place other than musical accomplishment.

Leaving aside Rebecca Flint’s sweet demeanour and her admirable attitude toward stardom, my cynicism wells up in the face of this. It’s the attitude of some contemporary parents that pisses me off. They seem to get excited at the prospect of their kids being put through the entertainment machine, clueless about its poor prospects.

It was different in their day. The baby-boomers got real jobs and went along with conformity ignoring the fanciful ideals of the counter-culture all around them. Rightly so. That generation got a real job and did what its parents counselled. Only the talented ones might have gone on to pursue a life in the arts. They would have done that from sheer drive, less from pushy parenting.

Today the boomers as family heads often don’t echo their own parents' sound advice. They live out their missed opportunities through the kids by encouraging show-biz fantasies. In the past the older generations understood intuitively the dodgy-ness of a life in entertainment - “Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington!” Today it is just as difficult. Parents should be doing as Coward’s song suggested and advising caution. If the kid wants to go ahead then the first fight should be against the family counsel. It will be good practice for what’s to come and a tiny obstacle by comparison to what will lie up ahead.

The attitude of Rebecca Flint’s parents seemed to me inappropriate. I would describe it as verging on exploitative. There was something rather seedy about the pair of them - he a policeman, she an ex-dancer - just as seedy perhaps as the 50 year-old men watching their daughter prance around in her bedroom.