My son picks me up at LAX. I get into the car, and he leans closer to me and says, “Hey mah! I know this isn’t really your thing, but I have 3 tickets for the American Music Awards for tomorrow night. Wanna go?” “Of course”, I respond cautiously. This was an experience I wasn’t going to pass up!
I wasn’t quite sure what I would wear. “The American Music Awards”, I thought to myself. “Isn’t that like, really, big? Don’t I have to wear a gown?” Jonathan and Staci reassured me that ‘casual dress’ was fine, so I chose the nicest attire I had brought with me, borrowed my granddaughter’s brown boots that matched my skirt, and appeared at the front door ready to leave. “Nice” says Jonathan. “You know mom, you don’t need to bring a bag with you. Why don’t you leave it here?”
“Are you sure?” I said. “I’m totally open to leaving it behind. It has my wallet and glasses though. Is that okay? Will you hold my glasses?” “Sure” he says.
As we get into the Uber cab, I notice that Staci is carrying her purse. “How come? Why didn’t she, also get encouraged to leave hers’ behind?”
Then I realize. My Indian cloth purse adorned with peace signs identifies, just a little, who I am. And who I am is definitely not in line with what I’m about to contend with.
Pop culture is extreme in Los Angeles. Even my 10 year old granddaughter, Stella, listens to pop music whenever she gets a chance, and struggles to emulate what she hears and sees in the entertainment around her. I am reminded how influential that world can be and I struggle with our youth’s obsession with trying to ‘fit in’. Pop culture creates a vision of unreality and disguised authenticity. Instead of us searching within ourselves for meaning, we find meaning in others and in our outside world. That’s dangerous.
Our Uber cab takes us as close to the theatre as the driver is comfortable. Crowds are thick and noisy, and very well dressed. Approaching the red carpet is difficult and I am aware of the significance of walking on the famous ‘red carpet’.
The opulence and decadence is everywhere and I’m feeling a little uncomfortable. The people seem a bit unreal… perhaps plastic representations of themselves. I have never seen so many skinny (and I mean really skinny) women in one place. And the clothing, mostly black and mostly scantily covering bodies, spans from the very simple to the extravagant and glittery. The show is in the fashion. In contrast, I like the simplicity of what Staci and I are wearing. I’m in baggy brown silk pants with a short skirt and a white loose blouse. Staci is in a simple black dress.
Now… I’m not one to live in fear. I don’t generally engage in media hype and I tend to avoid getting involved in other people’s business. I don’t listen to news. Instead, I tend to seek good news events and see positivity and joy around me. The AMA challenged that practice.
As I wander down the red carpet towards the entrance to the theatre, I think, “If extremists wanted to attack pop culture, this venue would be the place to do it.” The epitome of pop culture is highlighted right here at The AMA in a city that thrives on the same all year round! I had to reroute my thoughts in order to disengage from those patterns and focus on the event and the unique experience before me.
The music ranges from the ridiculous (Mary Blige’s “Why would I spend the rest of my days unhappy when I can go therapy two times a day?), to the inspirational. Artists like Sam Smith and bands such as One Direction, Imagine Dragons and Magic demonstrated great musicianship in their composition, lyrics and performances. The women performers tended to annoy me, focussing more on the spectacle than on the quality of the music. Provocative costumes that intentionally accentuated body parts, movements that are sexual in nature and provocative, and obvious invitations of sexual activity with other performers insinuated the focus on sex. I had always thought the AMA’s was about music!
The set designs are overly extravagant. Singers falling out of flaming torches on the stage, and incredible designs with lights and glitter demand attention. Designs that mimic the outdoors with brilliant moon displays are spectacular I just can't help but imagine the millions of dollars that go into these displays, and the better places where this money could be spent.
The women strut and grind their bodies flamboyantly on ornately designed stages. The men paw and gyrate insinuating the more aggressively we act, the more love we receive.
I feel strongly that those people in our lives who become role models should reflect behaviours and qualities that we want to emulate. Media influences the direction of this course. For me, the AMA’s focus too much on sexuality, violence, divisiveness and hype and not enough on music, moral integrity, and talent.
I’m glad I went to the awards. I so appreciate the opportunity and am grateful to Jonathan for making it possible for me to experience. I know it should have been about listening to music and watching the show, but it sure made me think!