The “alter ego” is everywhere. This story is older than Dr Jekyll. It’s as ancient as the first big secret… the first hidden desire. And now there are entire artforms that can’t live without it.
How many comics and graphic novels tell stories about a double life? Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker… …a better question might be how many don’t.
Not long after Gene Simmons put on his face paint, Vince McMahon turned professional wrestlers into real life superheroes. The costumes, nicknames, and backstories became more and more crazy… until the Undertaker is dying and coming back to life, and nobody was blinking an eye.
The double life has found its way into every musical genre. For rap, it started with a story concept like Nas as Escobar. Then Eminem adds a few Slim Shady fantasies into his biography. And finally artists don’t even have to be real people anymore. In 2011… you can just be the character.
And it’s gone so far that it’s flipped around. In wrestling, you need to be a character to be a star. But you know you’re a SUPERstar when they start explaining your upbringing, blurring the lines with reality. Same with music. Rick Ross gets outed as a corrections officer… and he just weaves it into the story. It’s just another hustle he used to fuel his drug cartel.
The old pictures of Stefani Germanotta should remind us what it’s like to be an ordinary person with a dream. But in the 24 hour entertainment cycle, it becomes another way that Lady Gaga is a living superhero. She now has an origin story. Trying some drugs in the Lower East Side was her radioactive spider. Rozay’s story is he was a crooked cop, while Nicki Minaj and Tyler the Creator can claim parental issues. (Which is the same story as either Marshall Mathers or Michael Myers, depending on who you ask).
When Mimi and Sasha Fierce are in on the trend, you gotta wonder why the double life is everywhere in music. Maybe the suits have refined an age-old myth into a surefire marketing formula.
I have another theory though…
It’s hard to change reality. And it’s only getting harder. (Just ask Obama). The artist who tells the truth can’t be a hero… cuz the truth never gets us anywhere. So we admire these big, bold lies. Not cuz we’re gullible enough to believe them. We just know that reality is shitty enough that we should cheer whenever someone takes a new name, and becomes somebody else.
Theme Music: David Bowie - “Ziggy Stardust”