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I confess to being confused. If you’ve ever perchance stumbled on to the beating geek epicenter of the Internet vanguard, the tech blog dubbed you will have run into a variety of jokes and references to the actress Natalie Portman as a sex symbol. Now I appreciate that the audience I refer to is not the most discerning outside of technical specifications but I’m beyond perplexed how this childish looking girl approximates anything like a sex symbol. I just don’t see it.

I can certainly understand that part of her cachet is the association with that true Nerd institution, the Jedi Knight and the Star Wars movies, in her almost infamous role of Padme Amidala, the raison’d’etre of Darth Vader’s misanthropy, she might have in a certain way captivated this audience. It seems odd though that the role in a movie, in a role that has absolutely nothing to do in terms of sex appeal and that doesn’t even use sex appeal as a calling card to secure its audience that she would gather this kind of momentum.

If anything Natalie Portman’s problem as a an actress is that she is entirely the opposite, having never been able to shed the child like image that she acquired in Leon and that her physical appearance actually seems to encourage. She instead is actually guilty of trying too hard to look and be mature, evidenced in movies like Closer where she deliberately tried to undo her child star stereotype by pushing the boundaries of taste in the rash connection that raciness equated to adulthood. A legion of 15 year old teenagers I’m sure would have been able to disabuse her of that notion. She seems to be doing risque because risque is expected, instead of the sort of conviction that defines maturity.

On the other hand you have the Queen of Reinvention, a person who has invented herself and her image so many times that she is the cliche of the reinvented stereotype. The person who can take their old image, discern where parts of it are either dated or common and the excise those parts and renew her image to critical and commercial success on an unprecedented and sustained scale. I of course am talking about Madonna. A constant theme of any new album release by Madonna is here new and ship shape image; people almost don’t even have time to talk about the music because they are so caught up in the fantasy of her resurrection.

It is this ability and distinction between Madonna style auto genesis, recreating her self image herself on a regular basis, and Portman style stagnation the self image that is my focus. It is my focus because I’m concerned with the art of the possible, and it seems seductively true that Madonna defines the art of the possible. It is possible actually to completely reinvent your image to the outer world. You can find that niche, that image to position yourself as a brand in the same sense that Nike positions trainers and Coca Cola positions soft drinks. Markets need a Gatorade, Nescafe and a Coke, because different people are looking for different things, and in the same way they are looking for different people depending on what they are looking.

The interesting thing is that very few people think of how they’re positioning themselves when they are dealing with the wider world. They don’t think in terms of generating the interest by being particularly unique or outstanding. No effort is made to place themselves in the social market in the same sense that they would accept as common sense that a product had to be to sell to people. People after all are simple creatures, they are attracted to defining by pithy sentence. They want to pigeon hole people to make them easy to understand. Gary is the basketball guy, James is the guitar person and Mohammed is the Muslim nutter. There of course is no necessary connection to reality, but reality and people are barely on the same planet most of the time so who can blame the mind for that.

What we need to do is actually take ownership of this positioning, to be self-creating in defining where people pigeon hole us so that we can gain the maximal benefit from that process, instead of waiting for chance and circumstance, and whats worse the deliberate action of other people to place us in what they consider our niche to be, which will be whatever convenient space they have left over in their mental filing space, or whatever odd attribute they decide to latch on to first. Hardly a result to be desired.


One Comment

    • Anonymous
    • Posted November 9, 2006 at 2:00 am
    • Permalink

    Hey are you a nutter then. In your next post could you say how you would/do market yourself. Muchly looking forward see what you put.


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