There Affectation with a sickly Mien
Shows in her Cheek the Roses of Eighteen,
Practis’d to Lisp, and hang the Head aside,
Faints into Airs, and languishes with Pride—
From “The Rape of the Lock” by Alexander Pope
According to an article in a recent issue of The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, “Skateboard-Associated Injuries: Participation-Based Estimates and Injury Characteristics” by Kyle, Nance, Rutherford, and Winston, the obvious is sometimes merely the superficial. That is, while people might think that throwing tricks either on ramps or grinding on the streets can be comparatively dangerous, the authors found that skateboarding-related emergency room cases are only half as many as are associated with playing basketball. In fact, those boarders who required hospitalization were likely to have had a crash with a motor vehicle (presumably, pedestrians would suffer similar consequences). The authors conclude, in part, “We found that skateboarding is a comparatively safe sport.”
Things are not what they seem.
Which brings me to Avril Lavigne. A current fave of TRL, with “Sk8ter Boi,” the song of a woman—a ballet dancer, of course (but one who, apparently, missed the film Save the Last Dance—who had a crush on a baggy-pants shredder but who was concerned her friends would think the less of her if she were to go out with him…and then, five years later, while she’s at home alone, presumably, feeding a baby, she sees her former heartthrob who is now—where else?—on MTV playing guitar (the link from skateboard to guitar playing is a bit, well, sketchy) and he is now “rocking the world” of the singer of the song, presumably the necktied Lavigne, who is, incidentally, described on her “official website” as “A skater-punk, a dynamic spirit, a true wild child.” Seems to me that few, if any, skater punks have themselves described as “skater punks.” And, for all of her ostensible rad behavior, it is curious that on her site, which encourages one and all to join “teamAVRIL,” there is an exhortation to put “Sk8ter Boi” on top of the list of the aforementioned TRL. Now that, of course, is certainly the sort of thing that anyone who is keen on turning over the applecart of the status quo would look for: validation from a Viacom outlet.
Apparently there is more than a little bit of stratagem behind this eighteen-year-old’s image. Cliff Fabri, her former manager, who signed her in November 1999 and who was canned in July 2001, replaced by Nettwerk Management, told The New York Times, that the native of a small town in Ontario, who’d been singing countrywoman Shania Twain covers, was truly a musical naïf at the start: “When we started, Avril’s idea of punk was Blink 182. She didn’t know who the Sex Pistols were.” His initial plan: “I was thinking of her as another Sheryl Crow. They both had the same small-town roots. Then I was thinking Fiona Apple, because of her independence. She definitely had attitude. So my line was Sheryl Crow meets Fiona Apple.” Apparently the people at Arista were thinking that Faith Hill was the model to mold the young singer after.
But as the story goes, Avril would have none of it. She would be her own person. Presumably the leader of teamAVRIL.
OK. Maybe she is authentic. Maybe she’s more dangerous than skateboarding. But in point of fact, there is no getting around the reality that in order to get represented by an outfit like Nettwerk, in order to get signed by Arista, in order to get temporarily constant play on TRL, there is more than a little marketing involved, more than a little artifice. As an individual, she may be simply sassy, a real Sk8ter Grl. But as a performer, she is that: an ingénue, a character, an entertainer, a player, an actor. Where does reality end and business begin—or is it that for the most part, Business has become Reality?