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Avril As A Western Icon: What A Good Idea!
by Esther Hartstein
21 December 2002 

Too bad the pop stars people associate with the U.S. are deadbeats like Eminem, instead of the wholesome and sweet girl next door Avril Lavigne who embodies Canada.


Ah, liberation. A certain pop star just may be lighting the way to the road away from the crudities and eccesses of her industry.

Her name is Avril Lavigne. The angelic young woman from Napanee, Ontario (population 5000) is everything a teen singing sensation should be. For one thing, this is a girl who dares to be so counterrevolutionary as to actually sing about topics other than love or sex. In "Sk8tr Boi", Avril the Awesome presents a meaningful tale about the price of superfice. In "Complicated", Avril questions phoniness. But Avril does not simply preach to evils of "phoniness" as popularly defined, nor does she pretend to embody some fabricated concept of "real". Avril symbolizes real because she is real. Period.

Many people in the history of entertainment have presented ideals of what empowerment was. Madonna preached promiscuity and outrageous fashions, Alanis Morissette preached grungy hair, unkemptness, and male-bashing. ("You Oughta Know", Alanis's 90's hit single, was about a woman furious with her ex for his crime: getting over their relationship.) The Beatles before them preached free love and drug addiction.

But Avril? The tomboy teen with the voice of an angel bares no cleavage or midriff. She sings about finding herself and being sincere. Her young voice is not choked in feigned lust, or carefully trained to be wild and angry. The many feelings of a lifetime pass through her lips and hit the listener in a sensitive place.

We have all known someone like Avril Lavigne. All women have been her at some point. Haven't we all asked, at some point, why life was so complicate and superficial, as Avril does in her album "Let Go" , and felt like people weren't reaching out to discover who we really were? These deep aspects of the human condition have rarely been celebrated in a media so obsessed with sex and shallow relationships. It is scary what conclusions of the West could be formulated were a foreigner to judge it from its music's content. In an era of backlash from more traditional cultures, it is clear that these conclusions have been drawn, and it has not put global sentiment in our favor.

In an era of globalization, it is paramount that a society maintain an acceptable image in the eyes of the universal community. Image flaws can be catastrophic. The Vietnam-driven perception that America backs off in the face of sufficient violence has empowered Muslim extremists against us. The same perception has inspired Chinese military strategists to create an arms buildup with the intention of forcing the United States into withdrawing its support for Tibet.

Global perceptions of the United States have brought about much good, as well. For example, Romanian dictator Ceausecu was assassinated after the soap opera Dallas was aired. It is believed that the people were driven to overthrow communism out of longing for the Western glamour portrayed in the show.

Hence, we see the power of our image. It has, at times, raised armies against us, overthrown dictators, inspired modernization and backlash. In which people should such a sensitive asset be trusted? Which stars are worthy of putting our collective values to song? Do we need Eminem, with his rants about raping his mother and killing innocents shaping global opinion about Western values? Should the cause of women's equality have "I can't get you out of my head, Boy, your love is all I think about" (Kylie Minogue) as its slogan?

Or should the Western Image be embodied in Avril Lavigne, a sweet girl next door with the voice of a human soul?

(Note: Esther Hartstein does not endorse censorship of any kind.)

 

Email Esther Hartstein

A multi-award winning poet, Esther has written a book, "Eros Wins The Battle", about a U.S. immigrant fighting for regime change in her native country. The book, filled with Greek myths and poetry, is available at BN.com (Barnes and Nobel) and Amazon.com.