The Death Of DivaJune 23, 2011 No Comments
Backstage, before the airing of The Voice, she had a team of six working on her hair and makeup, drank out of a straw while one of her minions held the bottle for her, she demanded the shoes she needed for the show and then she went on set in a funky mood until she felt like smiling.
Ladies and gentleman, she’s Christina Aguilera. Diva extraordinaire.
Originally, “diva” was a word to describe women of outstanding talent in the world of opera, but now it relates to women (admittedly a large percentage of female performers) who are demanding, high-maintenance, shallow, vapid and even women who are public train wrecks. Its negative connotations have become widespread as it’s tossed around from pop star to your everyday woman.
I remember when Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey used to be known as pop divas. They had big personas and big voices and their talent was not lost in the dark cloud of “diva.” As the meaning of diva developed and spiraled out of control to encapsulate all the negative qualities associated with women, diva became a criticism.
You might say that it was part and parcel of their behaviour. We all know Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown helped each other hit rock bottom and Mariah Carey eventually had somewhat of a nervous breakdown and escaped publicity for awhile. A dramatic shift was underway in the meaning of the word.
Mariah Carey is still known as a diva and she is passing the title on to her daughter with the help of her husband. “When my daughter wants something, she’ll let you know immediately,” Nick Cannon recently told the media. This is an unfortunate example of a woman being branded “diva” before she can even talk. It’s clear that the original meaning is buried when we say that babies, whose survival depends on food, love and attention, can be divas.
Lindsay Lohan may be a pain in the butt, destined to be a jailbird, but I wonder how many times we are going to resort to calling her diva. She was supposed to give an interview with Matt Lauer before her court appearance today and instead locked herself inside her bedroom since the interview was not going to be on her terms.
It’s not exactly professional behaviour and it’s ridiculous to demand so much money for an appearance, but it’s her life and she knows that people are willing to pay for a one-on-one. To add to it, there is no doubt she will be under intense scrutiny in any interview for the bad behaviour she continues to exhibit. She may not be a pop doll by any stretch of the imagination, but she obviously has problems that extend beyond the diva label.
But it gets worse. Amy Winehouse has completely buggered up her recent performance in Belgrade, stumbling around the stage as if drunk, forgetting words and letting her usually beautiful voice go pitch-crazy. The result is gossip magazines wondering, “Is this the end for the diva?” Like Lohan, being a train wreck gives her diva status. Winehouse clearly disappointed her true fans, willing to dish out the dough to go to her concert, but calling her a diva seems out of context. Since we don’t know what’s actually going on, we call her a diva, boiling her down to a brat throwing a temper tantrum.
Then there’s the show Drop Dead Diva, about a “shallow” and “vapid” woman who dies and comes back as a lawyer with a less than desirable body. She must learn to embrace her new avatar and ultimately change her diva (or evil) ways.
While the show has a good message about really looking inside ourselves and changing undesirable qualities, diva should not be used as a large umbrella term for everything negative about women. It has become belittling, demeaning and demoralizing when applied to women, especially when the majority of women mentioned have real talent. We should call bad behaviour what it is (bad behaviour) and celebrate the tremendous female talent that is out there.
There are two solutions: either we re-create positive associations for diva (it comes from the Italian noun diva, meaning female deity) or we stop slapping labels on women all together. We all (women and men) have the occasional bout of bad behaviour, demanding and “high-maintenance” moments, but fortunately most of us don’t have let it all hang out in the public eye.
Next step in women’s evolution – the death of diva.
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