Bowie’s Death Makes Me Feel Like A Loser.
The reason I feel bad about myself could easily be because the multitude of David Bowie’s professional accomplishments are intimidating to an entertainment professional such as myself.
When an icon like Bowie passes, the retrospectives are plentiful, and the full body of work presented with great success across multiple mediums by The Thin White Duke, aka Davie Jones, aka Ziggy Stardust, aka Aladdin Sane; is astounding.
There are, however, many extremely talented people (dead and alive) who’s career exploits make mine feel like the size of a Hobbit in a towering forest of Ents; like Tyrion Lannister standing at the foot of The Wall beneath the Night’s Watch; like an illegal immigrant global warming analyst at a “Donald Trump for President” rally; (you get the picture). If it were just about the resumés of the multitude of high achievers throughout entertainment history, my sense of self-worth would arguably be in a perpetual stock-market-like nosedive. It’s not. I’m fine. I’m generally in very positive spirits. Above average even. No. My dramatic drop in self-esteem in relation to David Bowie dying has less to do with his personal stardom, and more to do with his many, many fans. Perhaps, even you.
Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, painter and actor David Bowie had released 85 albums, 120 singles, 3 movie soundtracks, 58 music videos, and has appeared in character, or as himself, in 28 films and numerous television shows. I don’t own a single one of his albums, or EPs. I don’t know the lyrics to any of his songs, and might be able to name five titles by memory. I never had a poster of him on my wall, or dyed my hair orange. I remember him from “Labyrinth”, and “The Hunger”, but not much else. And if you showed me his picture, I’m not confident I could name the alter ego in which he was dressed. It’s not as if I disliked him. I didn’t turn the radio station to another channel when one of his songs was playing. I didn’t protest movies in which he appeared, or burn any of his CD’s. I simply just wasn’t a fan.
What!? Red flag. Based on the heartfelt reflections, solemn condolences, emotional recollections of meeting him, and moving “coming-of-age-with-Bowie” stories that were posted and shared in social media since he died, my lack of fandom is, in fact, a disgrace. Again, not because he was so wildly successful, and people hold up their hands, shrugging in disbelief at how I could possibly not like someone of such celebrity status. Instead, it’s startling to me because people I know, love, trust, admire, respect, and hold in high esteem, consider him a pivotal influence on their lives; their very souls! I don’t feel alienated by those who adored him, or judged by them. I feel like I really missed out on something and it’s only my shortcomings that can be blamed. I’m just not that cool, hip, cultured, or with it. It’s a disgrace in that I am unable to benefit and enjoy the enrichment he might have brought to my life. There’s a sense of inadequacy that lingers in my gut when I can’t relate to someone who was clearly so influential.
SIDEBAR: By influential I mean inspiring and transformational in how they influence they way you live, formulate your ideas and beliefs, and how you interact with others in society. I’m not talking about influential in terms of how many fans you have on FB, views you have on YouTube or followers you have on Twitter. Checking just now, David Bowie had 796K Followers on Twitter; Kim Kardashian West, 39M. She, too, is “influential”. And using my Bowie-meter as a measure, she has a similar impact on my life: I don’t watch her TV show, I haven’t seen any of her movies, or music videos; I’ve never bought her clothes or makeup, played her video game, or heard “Jam (Turn It Up)”. It would be sad if she were to lose a battle with cancer at the age of 69, don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying the gushings of her fans in such a tragic hypothetical wouldn’t throw me into an introspective tailspin. I’m confident that my life wouldn’t be any richer at this point if I had kept up with her.
Bowie genuinely made the world a better place (not just a more entertaining place) for so many people. I want to be a part of that community, not an outsider. It’s the very reason why people were quick to post pictures of themselves with him, or share stories about meeting him, working with him, seeing him in concert, and hearing his music for the first time- validation! It’s not about fitting in, and being like my friends. It’s my brain saying: “if they got something so powerful out of him and I didn’t, either something is wrong with them, or something is wrong with me”. There’s just too many of “them” for me to fool myself. The harsh reality is, when it comes to Ziggy, I am looking in from the outside, far above the world, and there’s nothing I can do.
What’s helping me get over myself, however, is opting to appreciate Bowie’s greatness through those he touched, instead of coveting their reverence for him. The notion that he has in some way influenced what I enjoy and admire about those with whom I am familiar, is my way of gleaning some of that Stardust for myself. Hey, they actually don’t mind spending time with me, which means at least I’m not unpleasant company. While I might not have sophisticated taste in pop artists, those in my social circle who do, enable me to embrace my inner-androgynous-rock-star-space-alien, so that I no longer feel so bad about myself.
“I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.” –David Bowie