Debunking the Magic Discovery Myth
I’d like to celebrate the end of Rice University’s finals week by talking to you about a TV show I’ve been watching lately: The CW’s 90210. 90210 is a reincarnation of the 1990s drama Beverly Hills, 90210—in a similar vein as Degrassi: The Next Generation—featuring privileged California teenagers played by actors in their twenties who are miles more stylish and attractive than anybody you probably went to high school with in real life.
I’d like to focus specifically on a recent storyline featuring one of the show’s main characters, Adrianna Tate-Duncan (Jessica Lowndes). Adrianna’s had it rough these past two years at West Beverly High School. She began in Season One as an aspiring actress suffering from serious drug addiction, while her mother Constance pressured her into supporting the family financially with her acting career. Over the course of the past two seasons she has overdosed, become pregnant with the child of her Spring Awakening co-star, become engaged to her on-and-off soul-mate NavidShirazi (Michael Steger), broken off said engagement, given up her baby for adoption, descended into drug addiction once more, began drug rehabilitation once more, and explored her budding bisexuality. Most recently, Adrianna became lead singer for the local all-female pop band, The Glorious Steinems. Of course, their first gig occurs on a beach, at night, on a huge stage, with perfect sound quality and a sizeable audience. Of course, there was a talent agent in the audience, Ivy Sullivan’s (Gillian Zinser) mother Laurel Cooper (Kelly Lynch), who signed Adrianna to some sort of ambiguous, large-scale record contract the next day.
Out of all the ridiculous things that happen on teen dramas, this bothers me the most: the “discovery” myth, that one day your garage band, or you-and-your-guitar will “make it big” because some kind record producer in the audience is going to be looking for fresh talent to sign. The more this storyline is perpetuated in the media, the more people are going to think that it is the only way to succeed in the music business is by chance, minimal practice, and the kindness of strangers. One of the reasons I strive to become an educated composer is because I actively want to resist that path. I want to succeed by working hard to create something with depth and originality, because I want long-term job security, and because I want to maintain creative autonomy.
I want to see a teen drama where an aspiring composer works hard for her success by building a composition portfolio for college applications and plans ahead for her future in the music industry, who does research and hires a lawyer before she signs a contract because she wants to create music that is original and challenging; not a teen drama where a hot chick with a raw, pleasant voice is “discovered” by a sketchy record executive and hops on the first bus out of town to a studio.
Do you think I might be taking this too seriously, or thinking too much about it? Has anybody else had an experience where a “magic discovery” television or movie storyline has driven you crazy, or is it just me?