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Monday, March 29, 2010

Life Lessons from... Well, Life Really

Editorial by Mark Mayhey reporting from London, UK

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga
The Twilight Saga: teenage torment wrapped up in Mormonism angst
We sometimes love those things we don't understand. But it's also easy to knock them, too. Take the Twilight Saga phenomenon. Blood-sucking creatures and hairy wolf-boys aside, some will argue - even if a bit tongue in cheek - that it's a valid take on reality.

Granted it might not be the majority's reality, but it's one type of it. It's American teenage torment wrapped up in Mormonism angst. Although this seems to be a tackier reincarnation of the tired vampire myth, teenage fascination with deathly heroes isn't a new thing, especially if the undead in question are bedroom wall material.

And although the raw angst and melancholy emitted by the cast is straight out of the "dog ate my homework" book of hating your parents and painting your fingernails black, fans complain that the phenomenon is stereotyped as "teen" and just needs to be understood and respected for what it is - a coming of age romantic tale with some blood on the side.

Sounds a bit like another reality we might not all get - the celebrity industry.

Dog Bites Man: The Media Pet Versus the Media

Screencap of Joe Calzaghe's apology on his website
British boxer Joe Calzaghe apologises
on his website for using drugs
In the UK, ex-world boxing champion Joe Calzaghe has apologised after newspaper allegations were published that he took drugs. A statement on his website said he regretted his "occasional use of cocaine" since retiring from the ring.

Some will not know, but Calzaghe is a big name in the British sporting industry. The super-middleweight retired from boxing in February 2009 as Britain's only undefeated boxing world champion with 46 wins from 46 fights. He is a former winner of the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year and took part in the last series of Strictly Come Dancing, and in doing so tagged himself from one bloodsport to another - straight from the boxing ring into the circus ring of the paparazzi.

He wrote on his website: "I am deeply sorry if anyone feels let down and I will make sure that nothing like it happens again.

"Over the course of the last 24 hours I have been in discussions with my family, friends, my management team, my sponsors and charitable partners ... who have given me their full support and continued backing on the fundraising initiatives I have recently commenced."

The 38-year-old from Newbridge, south Wales, said he was fully aware it set a bad example to others. Although "not a major problem" in his life it was something he was "actively addressing", but he also criticised the reporting tactics used by the News Of The World.

Calzaghe said he felt he had been the victim of a sting operation by the newspaper, whose reporters posed as the London representatives of a Russian investment bank and where he was unaware he had been secretly filmed. Many of the discussions took place in a "relaxed environment" where not everything said was "meant seriously."

He questioned if it was the "proper function of a free press" to have journalists using "this sort of underhand deception" to get a story "which they hope will sell newspapers by knocking someone down."

Boys Will be Naughty Boys?

Let's get the link-up out of the way. If you've read this far, then there's a 99% chance your thinking what everyone else reading this is: Calzaghe's incident has comparisons with a recent nineties naughty/naughties nice boy (say that without getting your tongue in a twist) arrested in a crack down on drug trafficking in Turkey - albeit one with more serious ramifications for Tarkan.

<< Read about Tarkan's four day detainment by Turkish authorities here

When the pop star was arrested towards the end of last month with others, after a raid by narcotics officers following a six-month investigation of phone tapping and surveillance of the singer's house, it took four days in custody before Tarkan was escorted to court to give his testimony - and it sent shock waves through the entertainment world. Think drug possession. Think Turkish jails. Think Midnight Express. It was like the 1970s all over again.

Possibly that along with a big name sent the shock waves further still. Was an old demon raising its head in Turkey? Some of us in the media took a step back in wonder.

It's becoming a common trend. Big names in sting operations in Turkey are not just restricted to what some see as the prevalent use of cocaine amongst celebrities in the country. With more than 40 people arrested in Turkey also in connection with match-fixing recently - included several big names in Turkish football - it seems it is just the "tip of the iceberg" to quote the BBC report.

Former international footballer Arif Erdem, who now coaches at Turkish premier league level, has since been released and denies the allegations. But with this investigation involving at least nine countries, even with this week's events in Turkey, it seems likely that most of the iceberg is still concealed in deep water and that we're going to be hearing more stories like these.

Turkey is cleaning up its act, or it wants to be seen as doing some in-house cleaning. During the current sweep, celebrities facing prison will become yet another reality.

It seems Tarkan is keeping relevant, although not in a way he and his fans would like.

Tap, Tap, Tap ... Anyone There?

It would be hard if paranoia didn't set in. Operation stings, phone tappings and secret surveillances all sound like something out of the KGB - there's another reality for you. But back to ours, and what life lessons do all the above hold?

Apart from the private lessons Tarkan will undoubtedly take from the harrowing experience, irrelevant of innocence or guilt, naturally the Turkish press will take their own lessons from the coverage. If only, after having rubbed its hands in glee and sold more papers by not only "knocking down" Tarkan but printing every delectable rumour going, on what responsibilities a free press has when reporting the news.

But there's a more immediate lesson here that Tarkan would do well to learn. Taking a leaf out of Calzaghe's book, whatever your side of the story is don't just leave it to a lawyer. Get a statement released on your official site. It's not like he hasn't done it before.

Deflate the situation by getting out a personal statement on official channels. Looking after your fans is always the best way to defuse a potentially harmful situation. As you lock yourself away to produce your quality music (good therapy I'm sure), think of all those girls (and boys) that are, well, filled with teenage angst - because sometimes making music just doesn't do it. Sometimes you have to face the music.

It's a reality you can't ignore, because its a misnomer that popularity is directly related to quality.

Nothing dispels that idea quicker than the fact some of us will have to live with that Twilight 3 will likely be the biggest movie of 2010.

Instead - realistically - it's about giving the masses what they want. And if you're a pop star, isn't that the one lesson you should learn early on in your career?

The views in this article are those of the author alone.
Read more Mark Mayhey articles on Tarkan >>

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