Essay Preview: Andy Warhol
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Within our societal realm, there exists a Ð²Ð‚Ñštension between I, the spontaneous self, and me, social constraints within the selfÐ²Ð‚Ñœ, which represents the Ð²Ð‚Ñšcrucial discrepancy between our all-too-human selves and our socialized selvesÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (Ritzer, 224). According to Erving Goffman, as members of society we suffer from such Ð²Ð‚ÑštensionÐ²Ð‚Ñœ as a result of who we really are and who society expects us to be. The latter, referred to as the Performing Self, is comprised of three integral components: performance, creativity, and authenticity. In analyzing the Performing Self, we may beseech a most appropriate illustratorÐ²Ð‚¦Andy Warhol.
Central to Goffman and microsociology is the concept of skillful interaction and performance. Because observation and interaction are fundamental concepts in perspective, we strive to Ð²Ð‚ÑšimpressÐ²Ð‚Ñœ society with our Ð²Ð‚ÑšselvesÐ²Ð‚Ñœ, thus employing Ð²Ð‚ÑšpropsÐ²Ð‚Ñœ, Ð²Ð‚ÑšscriptsÐ²Ð‚Ñœ, and Ð²Ð‚ÑšcostumesÐ²Ð‚Ñœ to perfect our images. Warhol is perhaps one of the most ideal performers among effective social actors. With his silver wig, chalk-white skin, black sunglasses, his tape recorder, and his raw, blatant speech, Warhol is an epitome of performance. Before we may truly assess the degree to which he was successful, however, it is crucial to understand the underlying principles of social performances.
Ð²Ð‚ÑšIn all social interaction there is a front region [and a back region]Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Ritzer, 73). The term front region refers to the so-called Ð²Ð‚Ñšstage frontÐ²Ð‚Ñœ, on which the social actor leads his social life, is structured to form the basis of other peopleÐ²Ð‚™s perceptions of him; it is where he utilizes his props, scripts, and costumes. The back region may be thought in terms of Ð²Ð‚ÑšbackstageÐ²Ð‚Ñœ or Ð²Ð‚ÑšoffstageÐ²Ð‚Ñœ and is essentially where the actors Ð²Ð‚Ñšcan shed their roles and be themselvesÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (Ritzer, 73). The front may be subdivided into the setting and the personal front. The setting is simply the Ð²Ð‚Ñšphysical scene that ordinarily must be there if the actors are to performÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (Ritzer, 225). Within the personal front subsists appearance and manner; appearance lends the social actor his Ð²Ð‚Ñšsocial statusÐ²Ð‚Ñœ, while manner is the actorÐ²Ð‚™s demeanor which Ð²Ð‚Ñšwarns us of the interaction role the performer will expect to playÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (qtd. in Presentation of Self). For Warhol, his front is Ð²Ð‚ÑšAndy WarholÐ²Ð‚Ñœ.
Perhaps the most important elements to Ð²Ð‚ÑšAndy WarholÐ²Ð‚Ñœ and his performance are his appearance and manner. The former are his costumeÐ²Ð‚”wig, sunglasses, white makeupÐ²Ð‚”and his props, most importantly, tape recorder with which he records others; the latter his speech and homosexuality. These are what defined Warhol as who he became to his audience. As part of his social act and image, Warhol also employed the naivete. He Ð²Ð‚Ñšreferred to his public persona as a cartoon-like act that he managed to keep up for twenty-five yearsÐ²Ð‚Ñœ, stating that Ð²Ð‚Ñšsometimes itÐ²Ð‚™s so great to get home and take off my Andy suitÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (Cresap, 53). In portraying himself as a naif, WarholÐ²Ð‚™s speech is especially important. In interviews or around reporters, he played Ð²Ð‚ÑšdumbÐ²Ð‚Ñœ, often times responding that Ð²Ð‚ÑšI, uh, donÐ²Ð‚™t knowÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (qtd. in Sherwood). He answered the same questions differently each time, usually not answering the question at all, prompting people to think he was dumb. WarholÐ²Ð‚™s front stage and backstage performance can be defined as Ð²Ð‚Ñšcool, coy, campy, and dumb, which he brought out at public momentsÐ²Ð‚Ñœ and as Ð²Ð‚Ñšwistful, touching, unhappy, and smart, revealed in private momentsÐ²Ð‚Ñœ, respectively (Cresap, 54). He was also known to use an impersonator, another prop, if you will, to enhance his performance, which when asked as to why he did so, remarked that the other person had more to say that was interesting and was what the people wanted (Cresap, 12). Ð²Ð‚ÑšOne of [WarholÐ²Ð‚™s] provocations, though, is that he does not perform according to our received sense of how naifs should behaveÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (Cresap, 39). In fact, he performed in such a sly manner that perhaps audiences understood his front and the fact that he was Ð²Ð‚Ñšputting them onÐ²Ð‚Ñœ. If we assess his performances, we realize that his acts are in fact far Ð²Ð‚ÑšsmarterÐ²Ð‚Ñœ than the way a naÐ”Ð‡f normally would act. He managed to fool people so well sometimes that he could effectively manipulate situations to get his way, since cultivated naivete may Ð²Ð‚Ñšserve progressive endsÐ²Ð‚Ñœ by being coy, direct, or indirect (Cresap, 38). In other words, through his performances and persona, Warhol was able to deviate from the norm and Ð²Ð‚Ñšget away with itÐ²Ð‚Ñœ, so to say.
Warhol also had his own opinion of a good performance. He enjoyed those done by amateurs because they were not phonyÐ²Ð‚”Ð²Ð‚Ñšwhatever they [did] never really [came] offÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (Warhol, 82). So if Warhol thought good performances were those that were real and not phony, then why did he offer his best performances in costume with props and scripts? Perhaps he was trying to eliminate the stigmas he was facing as a result of his sexual orientation and unattractive appearance, and consequently, felt he needed to present himself as an idealized image of who he really was. Because stigma is a social constraint that can have a negative emotional effect on the individual, victims try to Ð²Ð‚Ñšmake upÐ²Ð‚Ñœ for it by excelling in other areas. Warhol needed Ð²Ð‚Ñša means of preventing his homosexuality from gaining too much ascendancy in his public perceptionÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (Cresap, 52). He succeeded in diverting peopleÐ²Ð‚™s attention from concentrating on his homosexuality or his appearance and perceiving them as negative by achieving exceptional limits in his art and personality as a naif. As a result, he created Ð²Ð‚ÑšAndy WarholÐ²Ð‚Ñœ and turned it into a most successful icon or image.
Warhol is most closely associated with the rise of pop art, a form in which the concept being illustrated is depicted in its complete reality, Ð²Ð‚Ñš[taking] the inside and [putting] it outside, and [taking] the outside and [putting] it insideÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (Warhol and Hackett, 3). His performance as a pop artist initiated the basis of the image he has taken on today; however, it is his creativity, stemming from his authenticity,