“Fame, celebrity – it’s not such a big deal in Europe. People seem to understand that you just have a weird job. They’re not running after you, trying to carve chunks out of you. It’s strange in the States. Most fans here are great, but there’s a handful who have seen the movies and feel they know you. They think it’s alright to touch you and ask personal questions.”
— Johnny Depp
In the beginning, there was the voice … no, The Voice. Like the mythological Sirens’ song that lured sailors to their destruction, David Archuleta’s voice bewitched us into submission from the very first note and we were powerless to resist it. (Luckily, there were no cliffs to crash into, only Simon Cowell.)
And in the beginning that Voice was enough for us. We looked forward to hearing it week after week on A.I.; YouTube-ing and iTunes-ing it until digital reproduction left us wanting more. And we got more … the Idol Tour.
As the tour progressed, fan-encounter reports sent our expectations into overdrive. We wanted, no needed, to hear The Voice live, to see David in the flesh, maybe get an autograph, a picture, a hug. Give him a letter or a gift or a compliment and get a reaction, a smile, an “aww, thanks” or, better yet, an ArchuGaze.
When the single and the CD were released, the crowds grew bigger – and, sometimes, more intrusive. In one interview, David recounted going to the movies with his friends and being recognized by fans who wanted him to sign autographs and smile for pictures. He said he didn’t mind doing that when he was “working,” but he’d been with his friends. It seemed to surprise him that even the most devoted fans don’t always recognize the boundary between the public and private life of a celebrity. And where David was concerned, that line was about to get blurrier.
We soon wanted to examine every public and private move of his to determine whether or not each fit with our idea of what was best for him. We wanted him to become a critically acclaimed superstar, yet not be lonely or miss out on graduating — to be on the cover of Rolling Stone and win Grammys, but get to go to his prom and have a normal teenage life.
We wanted him to be protected from those so demanding they ask for kisses on the cheek and piggyback rides, but yet remain available and accessible to us.
As we voted in endless online polls, stalked radio request lines and gifted countless CDs, our expectations grew about his career and his image.
We wanted him to “own” his star power, tour in grown-up venues, take a pass on kiddie TV roles and Teddy Bear songs, lose the “ballad boy” image … no, wait, sing more ballads … get a new label, new management, new marketing strategy. We began to want it all.
“I don’t think I realized that the cost of fame is that it’s open season on every moment of your life.” — Julia Roberts
And then there was Twitter.
David now has more than 144,372 followers on Twitter – me included. As soon as he replied to that first fan, we collectively screamed like the baby birds in the Twitter logo … “He’ll talk to us!”
Some spam him repeatedly for hours IN ALL CAPS begging for a reply. Even on his sick bed he felt it necessary to tweet “been trying to rest and haven’t been on the computer much today since I’m sick. Hope you guys understand! :)”
As if a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds would play out and thousands of frenzied tweeters would peck away at him if he went AWOL for one day. And then “thanks for your get better messages!!! You guys are too nice haha :)”
To me, it was code for “For the love of Spongebob, give me some space haha :)” Even Brooke had to reply to one of the fans to tell them “don’t be sad, he’s very busy and can’t reply to everyone.”
A clue to the motivation behind this Twitter mania lies in a message from a fan who’d just been replied to by David: “This is officially the happiest day of my life! Hah,” she tweeted. “Can’t get over it! 😀 … He definitely now knows that I exist!”
On some level, is that what we’re all seeking? And, if not, then what do we want from David? At first glance, it seems like an odd question. We want to hear him sing every song ever written. To be swept away in the rapture of his voice. To watch every thrilling stage of his burgeoning career. To witness his star rise around the world as people in every land discover his glorious brilliance. And that may be all we have the right to expect.
For as accessible and generous as David has been to date, the pressure of our collective expectations and the demands on his time and attention will inevitably wear him down. He will eventually need to step back, take stock, go off in a new direction or just take a break. And when he does, I hope he knows that we love him enough to let him fly and be free. To let him be.
So, what do you want from David?
“No matter how much fame you have, it’s not something that belongs to you. If I’m famous, that doesn’t belong to me — that belongs to you. If you can’t remember who I am, I’m no longer famous.” — Michael J. Fox