A tale of two divas

Mariah Carey is a diva. She’s famous for her outrageous pre-performance demands: 20 white kittens, 100 doves, white roses. I’ve joked before that the “no stairs!” thing might be a sign she’s part-Dalek.

Why do you know about her demands? Because they’re public, part of the public narrative about Mariah Carey. And, as I’ve written before, maintaining a “diva” narrative means you kind of have to ask for a load of weird stuff, even if maybe you don’t want or need it.

I suspect Mariah Carey would be happy with a comfy chair, a good wi-fi connection and a tube of Pringles. But it’s a basical behavioural economics trick: demand rare, expensive stuff and maybe you’ll be seen as rare and expensive too. The rider demands are are way of anchoring her perceived value, which means she can keep charging huge sums for her performances.

And when your behavioural economics “nudge” also feeds into a misogynistic narrative about how women are unreasonable and fragile and high-maintenance…you’re on to a winner, because the story fits together so perfectly.

Jeremy Clarkson is officially very much not a diva. His image is based on him being an ordinary bloke who doesn’t stand for any nonsense, a bloke who takes life as it comes. Clarkson tells it like it is, and never mind the forces of political correctness trying to silence him!

Who had the diva fit? Who completely lost their temper because the catering was not up to the required standard? Yup. Clarkson.

The thing is: maintaining the narrative of “ordinary bloke” actually takes rather a lot of work, especially when you’re a multi-millionaire telly personality. It’s just that in Clarkson’s case that work is outsourced. He’s pampered, subsidised and managed almost every moment of every day, just so he can keep up the highly lucrative everyman facade.

It amuses me that so many people are urging the BBC not to overreact over the incident. I wonder if Clarkson has ever, in his entire life, been told not to overreact. I wonder if he’s ever been told to calm down and get some perspective. I would bet money that never in his life has Clarkson been (explicitly or implicitly) given the job of smoothing things over, taking shit in order to keep the peace, managing other people’s feelings. That’s women’s work, amirite?

It takes an over-the-top incident like throwing a punch because the food wasn’t to his liking for the veneer to crack. And even now, people are managing, smoothing, defending. He’s never had to do that work. I don’t think he even understands that it is work. But as divas go, he’s a much higher-maintenance one than Mariah Carey. It’s just that a lot of the maintenance work was done before either of them were born.

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2 Comments on “A tale of two divas”

  1. Julieanne Says:

    This is so well expressed & captures the Clarkson affair, as well as the gender & class nature of it perfectly

  2. gryphon Says:

    Thank you, Julieanne!

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