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When I Think of Chris Colcord

By Chris Colcord

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-04-03


The Indianapolis Star recently published a profile on Hoosier actress Claudia Lee, the 17-year old West Lafayette native whose current Fox sitcom Surviving Jack debuted this Spring. The young actress, who previously appeared on the shows Hart of Dixie and Zeke and Luther and in the movie Kick-Ass 2, is starting to gain attention as an up-and-coming star, and the feature in the Indianapolis paper was a friendly, congratulatory piece, one of those "local kid makes good" stories.

On the face of it, there's nothing terribly remarkable or earth-shaking about the article, and indeed, you could probably find a similar feature in just about any American newspaper during an average week. The local arts reporter reporting about a local artist, nothing more. When I read the article for the first time, though, I have to admit that one line sort of leaped off the page for me and lodged itself straight into my brain. It utterly confounded me, the line did, and the longer I looked at it, the less sense it seemed to make. See if you can find it here in the following paragraph, which I'm reprinting from David Lindquist's March 30th feature:

“Lee attended the Divergent premiere and Academy Award parties with Bella Thorne, the 16-year old star of Disney Channel series Shake It Up. The actresses have known each other, Lee said, since they attended a hip-hop dance class together in 2010. ‘It's cool to see us transition from these little girls into these young women,’ Lee said. "We're very thankful for the work we're getting. We're really excited, and I think it's cool to share that with someone you're close with.’"

I guess I should be used to this by now, this self-referential, speaking of yourself in the third person thing, and I know, young professional actress, of course she needs to know how to speak the promotional lingo. But man: "It's cool to see us transition from these little girls to these young women?" She's talking about herself here, for God's sake, and yet her perspective sounds like that of a middle-aged publicist talking about a client. Or a parent talking about his kid after a few drinks at a rehearsal dinner or a graduation, some event that (perhaps) demands a little perspective. But again: this is a girl talking about herself. She's completely removed herself from the conversations and is objective. It strikes me as radiantly bizarre, to be so young and so compartmentalized in your thinking, to be able to talk not about yourself but about the perception of yourself. To put yourself in context. I'm not sure I've ever heard a 17-year old, celebrity or not, describe herself quite like this.

But hold on now: maybe it's no so unheard of, after all, maybe I need to cut the girl some slack here. There are plenty of scribblings in high school yearbooks that voice this very notion: "Girl, we've grown SO MUCH since we were freshmen! It's hard to believe that we were so gawky, and now look at us, we've made it!," etc. Perhaps talking about yourself like this is simply a part of growing up, that putting yourself in perspective is just a natural part of personal development. I guess that may be true. But does it have to sound so canned, so professional? Does it have to sound like a line you've been practicing for years and years in front of a mirror, imaging the press conferences certain to happen in your future?

I guess the problem I have with the third-person narratives is that I don't think they're limited to celebrities and celebrities-to-be anymore. I remember all the press coverage at college campuses after Osama bin Laden was killed, when there was that weird phenomenon of impromptu pep rallies sprouting up at campus centers to celebrate the terrorist's demise. One girl being interviewed on television talked about why she was there. "September 11th was when I lost my innocence," she said. "And bin Laden was responsible." Okay, hold on here: "September 11th was when I lost my innocence?" Who the hell talks like this? What 21-year old talks about losing their innocence? It sounds like something from a bad Lifetime Channel movie. Real life sounds a lot less articulate than this. If only she had said something believable and typical, like "September 11th was so scary and so wrong and so sad and I hated it,'' well, maybe she would have been credible to me. But this losing your innocence stuff just sounded like another spin doctor at work, another tacky TV-ready line hat been worked on years before the cameras actually rolled.

What's happened, I think, is that people are becoming a little less interested in living "their life" and more interested in promoting the notion of the "story of their life," and so, consequently, you have tons of average folks talking about their "journeys" and their "adventures," as if they are Ulysses and this is The Odyssey. The truth is — and I know, I know, what an antiquated, old-guy notion, "the truth" is — but the truth is, your life is interesting enough without having to resort to a lot of unnecessary hyperbole and exaggerations and contextualizing. The journeys and the transitions and the loss of innocences don't add up to a thing, because they aren't real, they're just made-up stuff. Storytelling.

And look, full disclosure here, I happen to be a big fan of self-delusion, and I'm fully aware of how intoxicating it can be to picture yourself in a larger-than-life context. Whenever I read a celebrity profile in Vanity Fair or The New Yorker it's hard for me, when I put the magazine down, to not think of myself similarly: say, when was the "turning point" in my life? When did I hit "rock bottom?" When did begin my "triumphant comeback?" It's hard not fall into that rabbit-hole of self-absorption and often it takes a Herculean effort to pull myself out of it. (See what I did there? I'm no longer "Chris Colcord" anymore, I'm Hercules!)

But I always do pull myself out, somehow, because it's too galling for me to do otherwise. At the end of the day it's much more honest (and easier) to be myself than to prop myself up with a false narrative. I know this makes me woefully behind the times here, but I can't help it; it's hard for me not to be wary of those more interested in documenting their lives than in simply living them.

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