By Feroz Qadri
According to the Oxford English dictionary, the term selfie refers to ‘A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website’. Simple enough, yes. But here I will discuss the intricacies of the selfie syndrome; the wave of narcissism and YOLOing that has consumed our generation. From Oscar host Ellen Degeneres and her possy, to biker boys one-wheeling in liberty, people all over the world seem to be hooked on to this phenomenon.
Let us first look at selfies in terms of practicality. What if all ten friends insist on being in the picture? Fair enough. Selfie zindabad. This is justified not only in terms of practicality but also in terms of social acceptability. But when a single loner, sitting idly decides to take a selfie, things become incredibly, utterly sad. The adjusting of a fat face to show off a nonexistent jaw line, twisting a bulbous blob of a nose for a narrower version, a shockingly sleazy pouty lip that really no one finds attractive; these are all contrived versions of ourselves that do not even exist.
The point of a selfie is to make it seem as though it was a natural and spontaneous take, yet ironically it is the most contrived of portraits. What is interesting to note is that even the ugliest of selfies have been carefully and meticulously planned to the tee. There is not an iota of naturalness or candidness in these takes. The ones below are examples:
An otherwise handsome and perfectly symmetrical-faced Sheru looking cross eyed and slightly constipated.
A forlorn looking Feroz looking off into the distance searchingly with an open-mouthed Tyra Banks pout that looks downright gay.
A suited booted Musti raises his eyebrows for a bit of swag perhaps. Going for a smooth look, he accidentally ends up with a constipated one.
By Feroz Qadri
Religion and popular culture are two social dynamics that have formed close ties through time. Religion is a major part of popular culture and culture in turn is a big part of religion as both seem to share a symbiotic relationship. Pop-culture as religion is a kind of branching out of this vice versa relationship in a sense that pop-culture has been empowered as a religion on its own and celebrities who reach that pedestal of ultimate stardom acquire a god-like position. They have the ability to influence people like no clergy or monk can; iconic stars become prophets of a religion called pop-culture and their artistic works become gospels and religious doctrines for their devotees.
Such is the case with Lady Gaga, an iconic name in the spectrum of today’s popular music scene. Her fame has escalated to such heights that she has been proclaimed a goddess by many and as her hit song ‘Born This Way’ portrays, she has indeed managed to create a “new race” not in the literal sense but metaphorically with her cult-like fan base. Many including Gaga herself claim her concerts, or “monster balls” as she calls them, to be a “religious experience” where her engagement with the audience is emotional and cathartic. Indeed Gaga herself has become a religion; a religion known as popular culture that she, among a few others, is the current reigning queen of. Over the years many pop icons have surfaced and washed away but the only ones that have left a significant mark on culture are the ones that have created a philosophy for their artistry and stirred the minds of their audience.
Artists such as Britney Spears and the likes have indeed achieved great success in pop music, with their girlish charm and sex appeal, simply because sex sells. But then there are artists like Lady Gaga that embellish sex with religion and esoteric mantras; two things that are perhaps as marketable as sex if not more. Gaga is attacking, adopting, proselytizing and incorporating religion as a fame strategy in all and any way possible. It is a fusion of infamy, appraisal, devotion, reproach, controversy and sensationalism resulting from her notoriety that has escalated her career from a mere pop icon to a cultural deity.
Gaga is blending the power of pop-culture with the command of religion to create an ultimate “sociology of fame”. The University of South Carolina has in fact even developed a sociology course titled “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame” dedicated to Gaga’s life, work and rise to fame. It cannot be ascertained that she is a Freemason who worships the devil or any said deity for that matter. Gaga was born a Christian but today defines her religion in terms of her music and the message of acceptance and empowerment she preaches through her creative productions. Her artistic works may be deemed bizarre or blasphemous but ultimately Gaga’s policy of utilizing religion as a tool for fame has proved to be a quick and clever strategy of utilizing popular culture as a recreational aesthetic institution; one that, as in this case, also conveys a latent, by way of an overt, idea of religiosity which constitutes as crucial an impact as any institutionalized religion, if not more.