Tuesday, 22 May 2012

"Just Be Stevie Nicks" - Or Not

Tavi Gevinson, the world's favourite pixie fashion blogger, gave a talk to TEDxTeen called "Still Figuring It Out" about the ways that teens like her were, well, still figuring out life, maturity and the whole schmeer. 

Her closing piece of advice is: "Just Be Stevie Nicks". Why? She says: "My favourite thing about her, other than, like, everything, is that she has always been unapologetically present on stage, and unapologetic about her flaws and about reconciling all of her contradictory feelings and she makes you listen to them and think about them".

You mean, the Stevie Nicks who had four abortions and was consequently sterile? Who took prescription medication and had a severe bloat-out for a decade? Who has never held down a long-term relationship in her life? Who was a coke-head? Who broke up one of the most successful rock bands in history by having an affair with another of the members? (Though I grant it takes two to tango and Mick Fleetwood was tango-ing a lot then.) Who learned so much about the 12-Step program from her stay at Betty Ford that she let a psychiatrist prescribe downers for her because she couldn't do what hundreds of thousands can, which is work the program?

Apparently so.

Ms Gevinson, like all teenage girls, has the feeling that she's going to screw up at various points in her life, and wants to be loved and accepted afterwards. Which is understandable, if in a rather have-your-cake-and-eat-it manner. Stevie Nicks screwed up her personal life royally, did just pretty much whatever she pleased, gave not a fig for convention and, you know, a responsible and mature attitude to life, forced others to take her as she was or leave her, and, here's the punch line, got away with it. That's the attraction.

Freud got it wrong: what women want is easy to understand. They want to shout, scream, threaten, slap faces, break plates, smash windows, sell the new car for $10 in a blaze of revenge, walk out on the kids for a coke-dealing biker, steal money from the guy's wallet while he's asleep, disappoint and upset everyone... and for all of it to be forgotten tomorrow. Women want a clean slate for themselves and a detailed inventory for everyone else except a few close buddies. 

Which seems to have been Stevie Nicks' life. Except it wasn't. The reality is that when it mattered, Stevie Nicks delivered the albums and the concert sales. If she hadn't, the fans would have deserted her and the industry would have stopped taking her agent's calls. She could deliver like that by dint of a strong work ethic and a formidable and consistent talent. At that level of both, people will go some distance to overlook the tantrums, because they know you will deliver when it matters. The emotional incontinence is treated as a cost of doing business with the talent. Absent the talent, absent the tolerance. Most women are absent the talent: they can no more "just be Stevie Nicks" than most boys can "just be Eric Clapton". Because most boys are absent the talent as well.

"Just be Stevie Nicks" sounds cute. It's a nice soundbite, and the future will be full of soundbites from Ms Gevinson. I can't help feeling that her inner hard-working Jewish girl is really identifying with the incredibly talented Stevie Nicks who screwed up, showed up and did the work - but saying that would be nowhere near as audience-friendly as all that stuff about flaws, and she knew it. Unlike the Misses Gevinson and Nicks, we-the-audience don't have the talent, the drive and the sheer damn determination, and we'd rather not be reminded of it.

1 comment:

  1. You know, while I see the point of your piece, for what it's worth, a lot of the things you've written here about Stevie Nicks are your own judgments. There's another side to every story told - her story, and in a world where dishonesty from celebrities reigns supreme, it's refreshing to me to see an artist like Stevie be so easily open - and openly expressing her wishes that she had made some different decisions, stating that she is open so that others *won't* go down the same path. I think to judge the deeds of others, especially a woman (at the time young and naive) suddenly sucked into the kind of lifestyle that would shake most people, really isn't fair. Her interviews shows a compassionate woman who truly wants to help others. So, yeah - I'd happily strive to be like Stevie Nicks. And as such, I think that determination would come.