To start with, let me admit up front that I only know Ashlee Simpson by name, I've never heard any of her music, and I also haven't watched Saturday Night Live for many years. I don't know - I'm old school - it's just never been the same to me without Chevy Chase (Good evening, I'm Chevy Chase and You're Not), Steve Martin (happy feet and a splitting headache), John Belushi (the Samurai), Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin and Gilda Radner.
So, I missed SNL this week when Ashlee was on it, but saw an interesting headline on Drudge for which I followed the link. On this week's SNL Ashlee went out to sing her song and the sound people cued up the wrong song. And, the song that was cued up was one she had sung earlier in the show. Yes Virginia, music stars do lip-sync there music, often. So, Ashlee is up there mouthing the words to one song and another song is playing and her band is trying to act like it's playing the wrong song. At first she jumped around and tried to dance a little, but then she walked off the stage, leaving her poor band out there to pretend to play the wrong song. It went on for a couple of minutes and they cut to a commercial. To make matters worse, Ashlee later blamed her band for playing the wrong song. What's up with that? Does she really believe the world doesn't know she was lip-syncing the whole thing? If I were in her band I wouldn't be too happy with her leaving the band hanging out to dry.
A few thoughts occur to me with this whole thing.
First of all, Ashlee's not the first to pretend to be something she's not. I think we pretty much all do that - it's just that some people get paid obscene amounts of money for pretending. My first thought when I read this was not indignation but a bit of pity for her. I know in my heart that I have often pretended to be something I was not, the difference between me and Ashlee is that she got caught in front of millions of viewers on TV. Wasn't it Shakespeare who said "we are all but actors on a stage." I'm thinking we ought to keep that in mind before we condemn Ashlee. I'm not justifying lying or deception, it's just a matter of letting him who is without sin cast the first stone.
Secondly, Ashlee is a commodity, a product of an industry hell-bent on making money at any cost. Walt Mueller commented on this fiasco this way:
. . . no kids, Ashlee Simpson doesn't always sing along when she's "singing" live. Surprise, surprise. She's not alone. In fact, she's one of the many "talented" recording industry creations who have the package that sells. And we continue to be manipulated.Here I am crossing the line into throwing stones, but it seems that her dad, Joe Simpson, is one of the main marketers for her and her sister Jessica. Speaking of Jessica, dad said:
"In the Christian market (Jessica) was considered a problem, because she was so voluptuous. People would say, 'Our girls having self-esteem problems after seeing Jessica sing!' It was painful for Jessica, because she was so beautiful and she had never done anything wrong in her whole entire life, but here she was getting rejected all the time . . . by me friends."Sorry Joe, I've got a daughter and I just can't see being a part of the commodification or objectification of my daughter. It gets worse, because the dad is a former Baptist minister who is now managing his daughter's careers. And, according to the New York Times (via Dick Staub) dad is now pitching a new reality show where teenage girls get to compete to be the new Simpson:
"Jessica is sexy in a T-shirt or sexy in a bikini; you really can't stop her from being sexy, because that's who she is."
The sorriest cynicism is reserved for Joe Simpson, father of Jessica and Ashlee who is pitching a new reality show in which teens will be offered the opportunity to be the new Simpson? The winner theoretically, will be instructed on how to jump through the same hoops as his hapless daughters, building a career around getting the right hairdresser and wardrobe specialist, finding the right audio producer to mask and enhance your limited vocal talent, negotiate great deals, and when on the downhill slide, get a self-deprecating reality show to make a complete ditz of yourself on national TV.The thing that gets me in all of this is that, in doing just a bit of research it seems that Jessica has some real talent, but Ashlee has only marginal talent. Was the allure of Jessica's fame just too much for Joe and Ashlee that they had to put her in the marketing meat grinder too?
Anyway, Ashlee's inadvertant Milli Vanilli impression once again illustrates the shallowness of our entertainment media and its icons. It may seem like no big deal, but if its no big deal then why are so many of Ashlee's fan's so upset at this incident? Could this be a symptom of something larger - that people are getting sick of our modern superficiality?
The sad part of it all is that this is a family that has Christian roots. Granted, they claim to be holding on to their Christian roots, but I find it hard to square the objectification of these girls with any "Christian values." I fear that one day Joe and the girls will wake up one day and realize they have sold their birthrights for a mess of pottage.