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Monday, January 04, 2010

Retrospect and Ridicule with Tarkan

By Kaya Turan reporting from Rochester, UK

Screencaps of reportsCurrently, when it comes to Tarkan, the Turkish celebrity press is either filled with nostalgic accounts harking back to how good he was, or columnists trying to burst the caricature hot air balloon they seem to believe he has been puffed up to today.

While posts from Turkish correspondents looking back to the Nineties will invariably mention Tarkan in a way that warms the cockles of a musical heart disillusioned by a decade of over-produced and over-sampled music, others look forward to mock predict the future of what the celebrities will be up to next.

One Milliyet variety journo put it in a way that highlights the problems with tourism and the current perception of Tarkan in Turkey.

He predicts that in 2010: "During a quick break in Turkey, Tarkan will comment graciously, 'I love my country, my people, my music despite everything,' after having been conned by a holiday rep working for the carpet sellers in Sultanahmet."

We may well laugh, but we laugh because of the ring of truth it carries. It is a telling statement. Tarkan has become a symbol in Turkey, but it isn't always for the music he has released.

Tarkan at LaChapelle LA shootWhen it comes to making fun of a symbol, nothing does it better than a visual, and the press are always on the prowl for a picture to say what a thousand words might not.

This time help came from an unlikely source (but an increasingly useful one for reporters), a Tarkan fan forum, whose founder stole pictures from a LA make-up artist's private blog who worked with Tarkan on a LaChapelle shoot and had decided to take some pictures as a memento.

The unflattering, hazy behind-the-scene shots were published on the forum, and found its way to Turkish media channels, with Tarkan looking like a skinny Adam Lambert being distributed by major channels such as Haber Turk, Hürriyet, and Vatan.

Their headlines screamed: were these the $300,000 photographs everyone had been waiting for? It will probably become the most remembered pose for the artist in 2009, even outdoing the media moaning his Rihanna-induced Mohawk hairstyle caused on his return from the US.

The common public in Turkey were more certain than ever that Tarkan had finally lost the plot. It probably did more to promote the fan forum and suggest a lack of communication between the artist and his fan base than anything else.

It makes you wonder; with fans like these, who needs celebrity reporters?

And having been listed amongst the celebrities that had visited transsexual Turkish classical singer Bülent Ersoy in hospital in news reports recently, it's no surprise that Tarkan would be singled out for attack at the industry's other end of the spectrum.

One folk singer - known for his conservative stance and his slights at Ersoy which even saw the two meet in court over his statements - spoke on Turkish TV to celebrity reporters to say he hadn't been surprised to read Tarkan had visited Ersoy.

"They're fellow singers, fellow soul mates," he said, but we all know what he meant. After the stolen LA pictures made every paper that hit a doorstep in Turkey, everyone knew exactly what he meant.

It doesn't matter that Tarkan was meant to be imitating a hard rocker, grabbing seductive temptress Pamela Anderson all over her baywatch. It only matters what we see in that photograph - a frightened emo rabbit.

Tarkan's past is even used to insult people. A recent public argument between a Turkish male stylist and the aforesaid once-man-now-woman classicist diva, had the catty designer remark, "She should remember where she comes from. Her story is just another Tarkan rags to riches story."

The singer can't win; even when he isn't mentioned, he is. Take an interview with an ex-girlfriend, who stubbornly refuses to mention him when talking about her past love life, the interviewer adds it in between brackets.

"She doesn't even mention Tarkan's name," the reporter writes, and you can almost hear the glee in the parenthesis.

Meanwhile in other reports, Turkish actress Pelin Batu dismissed the idea of going to spend the new year by watching a singer perform on stage. Although she had been asked about singers performing in Istanbul, when she replied it was Tarkan's appearance in Antalya she mentioned.

"I don't listen to Tarkan," she said as though she'd been asked for a playlist, proudly proclaiming herself a rock-chick and revealing that she'd be spending the new year with friends at a house party.

She obviously believes Tarkan is a symbol for whatever she believes is popular - but uncool.

It's something Tarkan takes with him into 2010.

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