Every Woman Is An Icon
I’m reading An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin right now. Yes, it’s the same Steve Martin that did the King Tut skit on SNL, The Jerk, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. If you’re expecting that Martin when you crack open Object, you’ll be wonderfully disappointed. Martin as a fiction author is intuitive, well-spoken, witty. This isn’t The Jerk writing, it’s something closer to his character in It’s Complicated, the quiet and observant man finding voice. Rather, it’s a story written by a man who can be both The Jerk and the unassuming architect.
I think I’m falling in love with Steve Martin. But that’s a different blog entry.
One of the (many) socio-cultural observations made in Object is that in today’s world, the proliferation of artists and the expansion of the concept of what makes art has resulted in a flood of the aesthete’s world. Not since Noah’s ark has this much inundation transformed the landscape into something vaguely reminiscent of old-world value schema, with a wholly original twist. We live in a world where Warhol and de Kooning take up residence in the same buildings as Rembrandt and Vermeer. Michelangelo and Pollock are in the same guidebook, if not the same gallery. Duchamp, rascal that he was, is passé. To understand him, you have to imagine living pre-Dada. And who can really imagine that?
The same has happened to our icons.
For a healthy chunk of time – at least in the modern era – the everywoman and the everyman were heroes. It geared up around World War II, when we recognized the value of being a good, contributing, purposeful citizen. Forget keeping up with the Joneses; we were a nation of Joneses. But then came the social media revolution, and now everyone can speak and be heard, at least among a smattering of peers. We speak, not as one human being to another, nor even as one speaker to a room of erudite listeners. We speak as soapbox-standing masters of observation and analysis. We convey our ideas as if they were revelations, epiphanies, life-changing newly-revealed doctrine for the ages. And all too often, we’re full of shit.
And yet, our little communication revolution has brought us a new possibility: hero status for every woman. We needn’t restrict our cooing and study to the five Metro-Goldwin starlets currently on contract. The First Lady is no longer a representative of all American women by default. Every woman can be an icon.
You know what I mean. Pull up your Pinterest account, your Google+ blogs, your Facebook Paper links, your Twitter feed. How many women do you follow and listen to that 99% of your best friends – those in your constant life sphere – wouldn’t know if you referenced them? We follow strangers anonymously, or not-so-anonymously, creating connections and comparisons to lives that won’t ever make a headline. But they’re at the top of our social media feed, and they’re laying welcome fingerprints all over our lives.
There are downsides to this revolution, sure. There will never be another Eleanor of Aquitaine, or Eleanor Roosevelt. We’ve lost the Audrey effect. But then again, I’ve gained Astrid, and Caroline Cakewise, and Anna Spiro. Who have you gained?