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Friday, July 29, 2011

TGIF: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!!!

Popularity is a funny thing.  Almost everyone has wanted it at some point, but very few seem equipped to handle the pressures and the frustration that can accompany it once they get it.

It is very much true that being popular can bring forth a lot of perks.  You always have people who want to talk to you, your life is never dull and boring, and you can take comfort in the fact that popularity frees you from having to go through hardships.

Or does it?

As much as everyone has claimed that they want popularity at some point in their lives, it really isn't all it is cracked up to be.  Sometimes, the quest for popularity and importance causes people to act in ways that they don't normally act, and can end up alienating those closest to them.  There are cases in which someone who seemingly has everything they could ever want on the outside, is really insecure and worried about what others are thinking on the inside.  Sometimes, they are so stressed out over being popular that they'll go to unscrupulous depths to maintain it, even so much as risking the good stock that had been built over months and years.

Have you ever known anyone like that?  I'm sure that everyone has at some point.

I remember years ago, I used to be really good friends with someone in school.  This would be going back to around the ninth grade or so.  We became friends in a keyboarding classroom, and this person happened to be a good friend to me during the whole ninth grade.  It was great.

Then around tenth grade, I noticed that my friend was hanging less around me and more around a group of people who used to make fun of me.  I didn't think much of it, as my friend was still talking to me, but something was different.

By eleventh grade, I rarely got to talking with my friend because the guy had gotten encircled in the clique that I had no shot of being a part of.  Whenever I did talk to my friend, the response given was kind of smarmy and sarcastic.  I couldn't quite understand why my friend was acting this way, especially since I hadn't done anything to warrant it (and even if I had, nobody was honest with me about it if I did do something that pushed my friend away).

It was almost as if I didn't know who my friend was.  The more time passed, the more my friend turned out not to be a friend at all.

Over the first few months of eleventh grade, I had become the victim of some rather nasty rumours, as well as been the target of some not-so-nice messages sent to my student computer account.  Fortunately, my computer teacher was a guru at tracking messages sent through the school computer network, and managed to trace the messages to a couple of people who were in my grade.

One of them was my former friend.  Encouraged by his new friends to play those not so harmless tricks on me.

I felt humiliated and betrayed.  I felt hurt.  Disgusted.  How could this person have done this to me?  What were their motivations?  What did I do to deserve such cruelty?

Oh sure, the person apologized once they were caught, but by then the damage had been done.  At the time, I thought that I couldn't trust this person again after that.  How could I?  It was like my friendship meant absolutely nothing to this person, and by the end of it all, I was the one who looked like the fool.

It's been several years since that incident happened, and honestly, I don't really know how to feel about this person now.  Now I can look back on it and realize that I really didn't lose that much out of the deal, and since that day, I've become a lot better at figuring out who my real friends are.  Still, it's a bit hard to predict how I would act if ever I happened to run into this person again.  I tell myself that I would be cordial and polite, but at the same time, I honestly don't know if I would respond with anger or with pity.  Or, maybe I would just ignore the person entirely and focus on those who really do matter.  For the record, it's been almost fifteen years since that incident, and in that time frame, I have forgiven this person...but I never forget (good thing too, or else this would have been a bland blog).

All because my former friend had chosen temporary popularity over a friendship that could have lasted for years.  Or, maybe the friendship might not have lasted six months.  The real shame in all that is that we'll never know.

Of course, that's just one example.  In my situation, the quest for popularity soured a friendship, but at least it ties in with the subject of the blog entry, which is that popularity isn't as glamourous or exciting as one would be lead to believe.  It also shows that sometimes, even the popular people can have issues or problems that not even being elected prom queen or student body president can overcome.

This lovely lady, who had two lovely sisters, and who all had hair of gold like their mother, seemed to have it all.  Great looks, great smile, pleasant disposition, and everyone seemed to love her.  It even spurned some hard feelings from her younger sister who constantly complained about...

...Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

That's right boys and girls, today's subject in this blog is all about popularity, and who else could express this subject better than Marcia Brady from The Brady Bunch?

I know what you must be thinking.  The Brady Bunch?  Really?  You're going to do a blog entry on a television show where the family seemed so perfect that it was almost frightening?  Believe me, I know all about it.  If you've ever read the book Justin, Jay-Jay, and the Juvenile Dinkent, there's a section where they're watching the Brady Bunch, and the main character is so disgusted with it that he comes up with a parody of the theme song.  Good book.  I recommend it.  In fact, I may write a future blog entry on that book.

At any rate, the reason I wanted to focus on The Brady Bunch was to show that despite the facade of perfection and happiness, each of the characters had some major flaws to them.  And, we won't even discuss the apparent behind the scenes stories from that set!

(Though, we may talk a little bit about the actress who played Marcia...but that will come later.)

To me, Marcia Brady is one of those characters that seems to have it all, but yet, if you delve into her character a little closer, you'll see that there are pockets of insecurity, jealousy, and even a little bit of damaged self-esteem.  Three traits that one might not really associate with Marcia Brady at first glance.  Certainly, you might see those traits in other Brady kids.  Jan Brady, especially.  But writing this blog about Jan would have been seen as too easy.

The Brady Bunch premiered in September 1969, and the whole premise of the show was to showcase the blending of two families into one.  Mike Brady fell in love with Carol Martin, and in the pilot episode, they get married.  Mike's three sons (Greg, Peter, and Bobby), and Carol's three daughters (Marcia, Jan, and Cindy) become instant step-siblings, and before you knew it, the family was one cohesive unit.

If this at all seems too cookie-cutter perfect to you, it's because it was (I mean, on the couple's honeymoon, they took the kids, the cat, the dog, and their maid Alice for crying out loud).  The ratings for the show never cracked the top ten during its five season run, and got mostly negative critique, but yet the show stayed on the air until 1974. 

When we were first introduced to Marcia Brady, the image we see of her is one of confidence, maturity, and beauty.  By all accounts, it seemed like Marcia Brady was the poster girl of the early 1970s.  Beauty, brains, empathy...she was portrayed to be the girl that every boy wanted and that every girl wanted to be like.

More importantly, she was seen as the popular Brady.  Everyone loved Marcia (though Jan certainly disliked her on occasion).

Sometimes, though, that quest to remain popular, or to maintain the confidence that she was known for could get her into trouble.

Take the episode of the Brady Bunch where Marcia wins the role of Juliet in the school's performance of 'Romeo and Juliet'.  She is determined to put everything she has into the play, not even being aware of the fact that her actions have alienated those close to her.  The episode was called 'Juliet Is The Sun', and originally aired on October 29, 1971.
The reason why I wanted to feature this episode in particular is because it's one that illustrates my point beautifully about how sometimes the so-called popular people don't always have it easy.  Marcia had some misgivings about playing the lead role in the play because she didn't think she was pretty enough to go on stage (a sign of low self-esteem), as well as the fact that she didn't think her acting skills were up to par (her doubting her own abilities).

You see?  Anyone can fall victim to doubting themselves.  Believe me, I have been where Marcia Brady was a number of times in my own lifetime thus far.  I know exactly how she felt.  I mean, Greg even said it best when he said that it was a shame that people couldn't see themselves the way other people did.  I mean, people loved Marcia, and didn't see anything wrong with her.  Marcia didn't see that in herself, and that conflict was the catalyst for what was to come.

I can understand the rest of the Brady family wanting to cheer her up and give her enough self-confidence to believe that she can handle the role of Juliet.  It was a noble gesture on their part, and I'm sure that their intentions were all well and good.  

Alas, we all know by now that the road to hell is paved in good intentions, and Marcia Brady was well on the way down that road as her attitude and ego improved.  Some would say that her head got a little bit too fat.  She started to act snobbish towards those around her, got into fights with the other Brady children, and was incredibly rude to the boy who played Romeo.  She changed the lines around, she hogged the bathroom to brush her hair, and she basically turned into a person that nobody wanted to be around.

You see, once Marcia got into the idea of starring in the play and realizing that it could make her the talk of the school, she let the excitement all go to her head, and her personality was affected negatively as a result.

In short, she was becoming anything but popular.  In fact, it got to the point where her attitude got so terrible that people were getting very frustrated with her.

Marcia was so concerned with trying to control everything and everyone around her that she failed to see how much she herself had lost control.  It ended up costing her the role of Juliet, and that was a really bitter pill for her to swallow.  As Mrs. Brady told her, she had brought it all on herself.

I think there's something we can learn from that.  It's okay to have dreams.  It's okay to be involved in something that will get you noticed.  It's even okay to want to have friendships and connections.  But when that desire causes you to act in such a way that nobody recognizes you, it can be a big problem.  In Marcia's case, it worked out for her, as she saw the error of her ways and took on a smaller role so she could still be in the play.  Sometimes, the damage done can be so great, it's not always that easy to repair.

Certainly, this hasn't been the only brush that Marcia has had with doubting herself, or letting her emotions cloud her judgment.  When she got braces, she thought she was ugly.  When she got a football right in the schnozz, it made her self-conscious about her appearance, especially when she was turned down by a boy (though, Marcia turned down a plain looking boy to go out with the jerk in the first place).  And, just like Jan showed her bright green eyes of envy frequently on the show, Marcia herself could be struck with insecurity and jealousy, especially when it came to someone dating the person she was interested in.

Popularity is something that Marcia Brady seemed to have, but for some reason, Marcia had instances in which she doubted it.  And, when she tried to do something about it, it usually turned for the worse for her.  It almost seemed like she was trying too hard to impress other people.  All she had to do was be herself, and the people who really mattered would like and respect it.  In some ways, I almost feel bad for Marcia Brady, because she sometimes didn't even know just how good a person she could be. 

And, you know, I can identify with her in so many ways.

I guess as we grow older, the impact of popularity is lessened to the point where we don't care what others think of us.  For quite a few of us, popularity isn't even a factor in our day-to-day lives (well, unless you happen to work in the entertainment industry, and even that's a little sketchy).  As long as we love ourselves, then others will grow to love us too.  It's admittedly a lesson that I didn't learn for quite a while, but I'm so glad I did.

Sadly, the actress that played Marcia Brady has had her own rise and fall.  Maureen McCormick, who turns 55 next Friday, was very popular on the show The Brady Bunch, and it made her a star.  After the show ended in 1974, her career and personal life completely took a nosedive.  She had gotten involved with drugs, and because of her addiction, she ended up losing a chance to be in Raiders Of The Lost Ark in 1981.

(Talk about life imitating art, huh?)

Eventually, she managed to settle down.  She got married, had a child, and through the love and support of her husband and former Brady Bunch castmates, she has managed to come back from her addiction.  She has managed to take on bit parts on television shows in recent years, but will her star beam as brightly as it did during her Brady Bunch years?  Who can say, really?

The only conclusion that we can make from looking at Marcia Brady (and Maureen McCormick) is that balancing popularity and fame with reality can be extremely delicate, and that it doesn't take much for your stock to plummet. 

The road to popularity can be filled with smooth sailing, provided that one has the tools equipped with them to handle it.  The downside is that sometimes, you have to gather them up one by one before you can make any effort to repair any damage done along the way.  It can be a lifetime struggle sometimes. As long as you believe in yourself that you can do it, and not let your ego stand in the way of the progression of personal development, I have to think that the end result is that we'll end up okay.

And hopefully you'll soon see that popularity will just be a word found in the dictionary.

And that's perfectly okay with me.

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