Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Power Struggles

armada1

I’m flying to Los Angeles on Friday for a couple of weeks, partly to take care of work-related matters.   I’m already feeling the anxiety.   Writing in Hollywood does not exactly fit my personality.   Networking is essential and there is a good amount of backstabbing.    In the entertainment industry, the aura of power is very important.   While I do have a competitive side, I would probably make a better junior high school English teacher.   That is more “me.”

One of the reasons I love blogging so much  is that I can avoid this competitive nature of writing.   Where else can I write a silly story and have pretty girls show up and applaud?   I don’t have to deal with agents or schmooze with people I don’t like — and best of all, the hero in the story gets to be ME, not Matthew McConaughey.

As blogging matures and becomes more business-like, it becomes just like Hollywood, which is people struggling for attention and power.   This used to trouble me, but now I just accept it.   It is human nature.   Sadly, life is less like a John Lennon song, and more like a game of music chairs or singing on American Idol.

I enjoy reading posts about the mom bloggers, because they are the most “successful” of the personal bloggers.  They have the most at stake, so there is always some internal drama going on that rivals “All My Children.”   “Important” moms argue over who is the most “influential,” as if motherhood was now a spectator sport.   Some writers now spend more time fighting over the direction of mommyblogging — what to say, what to do, what to call “mommyblogging” — than discussing their daily life.

I learn from these strong-willed individuals, much as I did with Sophia.   I have no problem with women being power brokers.  I wish I could be as strong and as sure of my opinions and wants.

You can catch up on the latest drama as my friend, Erin, Queen of Spain, who once rallied mom bloggers to “become a business,” now outs new bloggers as “carpetbaggers,” because they skip the “content” part of the writing completely, and just do giveaways.

I don’t disagree with Erin.   The bigger question is “who calls the shots?”   Who decides what a mommyblogger, or any blogger, should or shouldn’t do?   Who gives community leaders the power to speak for other individuals?

A commenter on Resourceful Mommy said it better —

What I find funny about this conversation (and several other conversations similar in topic and tone) is that the original Big bloggers were some of the first to push boundaries–the first pursued for reviews, the first to be paid bloggers and blog community leaders, the first to set up businesses connecting companies with bloggers.

It’s okay for one generation to redefine and raise eyebrows, but now everyone else must be controlled by their limits?

When there are limited resources, there will always be power struggles.  It doesn’t surprise me that as the economy has faltered, there has been more nastiness online.  People have agendas, sometimes personal, sometimes political.  This is the same for men and women.  Just watch an episode of “Survivor.”

stuart

On Saturday, I saw a production of Mary Stuart on Broadway, with Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter as Mary Queen of the Scots and Queen Elizabeth 1.   As with many dramas that were first produced in London, the acting was phenomenal.   I don’t know if I would recommend it to everyone.   It is talky, and I found myself dozing off a bit during the first act.    Luckily, during the intermission, I went into the lobby, turned on my iphone, and read about history on Wikipedia, filling me in on the backstory of this great power struggle of the 16th Century.

After the death of Mary Tudor, Henry II caused his eldest son and his daughter-in-law to be proclaimed king and queen of England.    From now on, Mary always insisted on bearing the royal arms of England, and her claim to the English throne was a perennial sticking point between Elizabeth I and her, as would become obvious in Mary’s continuous refusal to ratify the Treaty of Edinburgh. Under the ordinary laws of succession, Mary was next in line to the English throne after her father’s cousin, Elizabeth I, who was childless.   Yet, in the eyes of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, thus making Mary the true heir as Mary II of England.   However the Third Succession Act of 1543 provided that Elizabeth would succeed Mary I of England on the throne.

This was an epic battle between two powerful women, between family members, between two religions, that changed Europe and the world forever.

Clearly, Erin of the Queen of Spain (funny how everyone wants to be a Queen!)  is not going to chop my head off for writing this.   She is a very nice women.   As I mentioned earlier, I learn from these dramas.  I shy away from conflict (at least in real life), although I admire those who take a stand and fight for it.   We all have to push ourselves if we want something worthwhile.   Even something as beautiful as all the money collected for the March of Dimes last week for Maddie required volunteers organizing and pushing for money, and focusing our energy on the importance of this charity, opposed to the many other good charities in the world, like prostate cancer or muscular dystrophy.  Even Good Deeds requires leadership and someone (or some organization) getting slighted.  Everyone wants the attention focused on them.

I perfectly understand the feeling.   One of the problems in my marriage was this feeling of a power struggle, over “who was in charge.”

Today, my mother and I were walking in Times Square when we encountered men dressed as cartoon characters. Kids would run up to, say SpongeBob, and the parent would take a photo. At first, I thought these were sanctioned characters presented by the Disney Store, but then I noticed that Sponge Bob was pushing for tips, and that the “Elmo” character was in direct competition with SpongeBob. He seemed to be pissed that the kids considered him “2008” and only wanted a photo with SpongeBob instead.   Two blocks away was the production of Mary Stuart, but I didn’t have to pay a hundred dollars a ticket to see great drama.  It was right in front of me.   Two hard-working guys (or gals), stuck in hot, uncomfortable costumes in the heat, battling for tips from tourists from Germany.

Another example of limited resources, and a power struggle for dominance.

Now, honestly.   Where ELSE can you ever read a blog post comparing mommybloggers, 16th Century English royalty, and SpongeBob?

By the way, the exchange I had with my mother over these cartoon characters was amusing.

My mother and I encountered Sponge Bob in the center “island” in the middle of 42nd Street.

spongebob

Mom:   “Who’s that?”

Neil:  “Sponge Bob.”

Mom:   “Is he supposed to be a piece of swiss cheese?”

Neil:   “No, I think he is supposed to be a sponge.”

Mom:  “Kids play with sponges?”

Neil:  “I’m not exactly sure he is a sponge. Let me ask my readers.”

I took a photo of SpongeBob with my iPhone.

Mom:  “You should take a photo of Oscar too.”

Neil:  “That’s Elmo.”

elmo

Mom:  “Everyone is taking a photo of the sponge, but no one is taking a photo of Elmo. Look at him. He looks so sad. He must be shvitzing in that costume.”

Neil:  “I don’t want to take a picture of him.”

Mom:  (Jewish motherish)   “Go on. Take a picture of him. You know you want to.”

We crossed the street and immediately ran into Mickey Mouse and Shrek.  While SpongeBob and Elmo were doing their shtick for tips on “the island,” these guys seemed to be professionals hired by Disney.

Mom:   “Hey, it’s Mickey Mouse!  You want a photo of him?”

Neil:   “I don’t like Mickey Mouse.”

Mickey waved at me.

mickey

Mickey Mouse:   “Hello. Do you want to take a photo of me?”

Mom:   “Go ahead, Neil.”

Neil:  “No, thanks.”

Mickey looked disappointed.

Mom:  “What about a photo of Shrek?

My mother looked Shrek over.

Mom:  “I thought Shrek would be bigger.”

shrek

Neil:   “It’s not really Shrek.”

Mom:   “I know that.   He’s in the Disney musical.”

Neil:  (to Shrek)   “Are you and Mickey working with Disney?”

Shrek:  “Yes.”

I pointed over to SpongeBob and Elmo.

Neil:  “And what about those guys?”

Shrek:   “I don’t know WHO they are.   They’re just doing it for the money.   They don’t care about the children.”

Mickey overheard our conversation and came over.

Mickey:  “Those assholes are stealing our customers.”

Mom:   “No wonder they call Bob a sponge.”

Neil:   “Don’t they need a license?”

Shrek:   “Who knows?  (to Mickey)  We should tell the cops on them.”

Mickey:  “Good idea.”

Mom:  “C’mon, Neil. NOW you have to take photos of your new friends!”

I caved in and took photos of Mickey Mouse and Shrek.   I lost the power struggle with my mother.

33 Comments

  1. I love that you thought, even for an instant, that you would trump your mother in power struggle. “You don’t mess with Mom!” I wonder if SpongeBob and Elmo will turn out to be members of Celebrity Apprentice doing one of their competitions. Are they even in NY this season? I haven’t seen it for a while but it sounds like something Trump would cook up:)

  2. that mickey doesn’t look like he is licensed by disney at all! he’s all kinds of wrong!

    sorry about being forced to make friends, but let’s look on the bright side. the good thing about making friends in masks is that the swine flu shouldn’t be a threat.

  3. Mickey doesn’t look that disappointed. He’s got a huge smile on his face. LA will be fine. My cousin is a bigwig in the Hollywood scene – wanted me to work for her and I turned her down. Not my cup of tea. Too bad we’ve got Gray May going on right now … the weather isn’t ideal. I’m glad I’m not a mommy blogger. I don’t think I could handle so many women chipping in with an opinion on me/my blog. I don’t think my blog fits into any category and that’s for the best. I don’t want attention and I don’t want power … I just NEED to write. I think it’s simpler that way. (Although I did think Queen of Spain’s post was very well written & thought provoking.) This comment is rambling, but then your post hit on a lot of different topics. LA will be FINE Neil!! Hugs ….

  4. Mommy bloggers are overrated. The real power lies with the dads, just ask us.

  5. I’m madly in love with your writing. Thank you.

  6. “The bigger question is “who calls the shots?” Who decides what a mommyblogger, or any blogger, should or shouldn’t do? Who gives community leaders the power to speak for other individuals?”

    I’m so glad you brought this up. There’s been a lot of “calling out” since I started blogging three years ago (or maybe there always was and I was too green to notice it). I don’t know. If you have a strong voice in the community, shouldn’t the actions of wannabes or whatever be sort of a non-issue? That whole discussion just left a bad taste in my mouth.

  7. I think there is a fine line between attempting to ‘call the shots’ and simply voicing what I ‘don’t’ like happening in and around my community.

    I do think we pushed for and wanted this success and now we need to deal with the ramifications, which -in my mind- include those different from me.

    As I said in my post, it’s a big internet and ‘there’s nothing wrong with that’- but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    Thanks for writing something as silly as a mommyblogging discussion so beautifully Neil.

  8. You hit a LOT of points in this post…. First, your conversation with Mom about the characters had me laughing out loud throughout the entirety of it (not sure what I liked better: “Is he supposed to be a piece of swiss cheese?” or You saying, Neil: “I don’t like Mickey Mouse.”)

    As for the rest of the mommyblogger phenomenon and the current struggle over product reviews: meh. I’ve been at this for about 8 months and have been, I now realize, kind of blessedly out of the loop. There is so much dreck on the internet in all forms that I am baffled by why anyone would be so concerned about what the others are doing. It’s not like the rest of the world is going to suddenly care that a bunch of bloggers are selling out. At least it doesn’t seem like they will.

    The times are tough (I know wah-waaaah) and if people want to get in the game to make some money or snag some random swag, well, more power too them. As long as they don’t spam me in the process or expect me to reciprocate in any way.

  9. You are an amazing listener, Neil. No wonder you write brilliantly. Your three links and commentary tell the story very well.

    Your mother’s empathy for Elmo, and her use of shvitzing, makes her the hero of this post.

  10. I still don’t know why I’m blogging. I continue to have a hard time finding “my people”, and feel like I don’t fit in with any community. Your comparison of high pressure Hollywood writing with the evolution of blogging sounds accurate. The competition for attention and power bothers me. I enjoy the attention and the few comments I get, but I don’t desire the “power”. Too much pressure. Good thing I don’t desire it, because I don’t have it.

    I’ve been married almost 20 years and Chris and I still have power struggles. It was the worst the first few years of our marriage. True.

    I lose EVERY power struggle with my mother.

  11. Wow. First time here. And this was a beautifully crafted post. Yes, where else can I read about mommybloggers, 16th century history and Elmo in the same post. You have proven yourself.

    Well I sit here in LA waiting for your return (just kidding of course) but truly I feel ya on the networking vibe. I am on the outskirts of the entertainment industry in reality/non-fiction tv and wow – networking sucks. I really don’t like it which is why I sometimes feel i have gotten as far as I want to go – both in my career and in my “blogging” career.

    I wrote last week about this need for “power” in the blogosphere which manifests itself in “numbers” – and it’s exhausting. I have come to a place after only 6-7 months of being around where I am sticking to my original creative vision of my blog and that DOES NOT include power or numbers.

    And for me, that is a better place to me.

    Okay enough for now – I’ll be back… 🙂

    Enjoy LA – the weather is gorgeous right now.

    🙂

  12. Dear Neil,
    You never fail to entertain and make me think all in the same post!! Thanks!

    Hang in there during your trip to LA!

    Beth in Austin

  13. Mary Beth — The Celebrity Apprentice is a perfect example of power struggles when there doesn’t need to be. I wonder if they fight for entertainment value. Why do they all care so much about winning? Does Joan Rivers really want to become Donald Trump’s assistant? Or are they all just very competitive egomaniacs?

    Natalie — He does look sort of a low-rent Mickey Mouse. The California version looks cleaner.

    24 at Heart — I used to also say that I don’t want attention or “power,” but c’mon, we all want a little. Doesn’t everybody want to rule the world?

    Jack — Mommybloggers are the New York Yankees. Daddybloggers are the New York Mets.

    Laura — Whoa! Are you single?

    Kathy — This goes beyond mommyblogging. I notice many “tribes” get leadership and start speaking for everyone. There are a whole bunch of Jewish bloggers who talk about the Jewish blogosphere who have never asked me for my opinion before making broad statements about the “Jewish community.”

    Erin — You make an excellent point about there being a fine line between calling the shots and giving an opinion. I’ll need to think about that. I might be making the mistake of holding you to a different standard than another blogger, simply because you are “powerful.” Isn’t that you standing next to President Obama in your Twitter avatar? For example, just today, Joe Biden made that dumb comment, telling his family not to go on planes because of the swine flu. Anyone else, it would have been fine. But the VP has authority and when he speaks, people listen. You are in an interesting position, much like Joe Biden. I would hate for you to not speak your mind openly, but I also think what you say has more weight than others, so your opinion on “carpetbaggers” can be read as a leader pulling rank. I know that is not the intention. It is just how power is perceived.

    Amy — My mother had a point there, too. How the hell did a sponge become a popular children’s character?

    Deb — Can you think of a worse job than standing around Times Square in a hot Elmo suit during the summer?

    Chris — Believe me. When I go back to LA, there will be power struggles with work. And with Sophia.

    Lee — Like I mentioned in an earlier comment, power is good because it gives you more options. But you have to think about the pros and cons, and whether it is worth the pressure. Like you, I would rather focus on being creative, just because there’s not much at stake for me in blogging. Writing for pay is another matter. Then it would be great to be more powerful and call the shots. Or at least make money!

  14. Awesome post. I am processing the video form my presentation now… hopefully you will like it, cause I think we are of the same mindset.

  15. Too funny about the SpongeBob/Elmo wars. I just blog to have a writing outlet. I don’t even think about power issues or getting anything from it but helpful feedback.

  16. You’re back. I like it. Especially the surprise character developments at the end.

  17. Real Mickey has only four fingers. Fooey on that Times Square Mickey!

  18. Oh, Neil. Both of us so good at avoiding conflict IRL for the most part. Good luck in LA!

  19. I think people shoud be who they are and do what they please on THEIR blogs.
    I don’t mess with all the drama, I find it silly to say the least. I have always wondered about the appeal of sponge Bob to children, I just don’t get it?????

  20. Daddybloggers are the Pittsburgh Pirates. Or actually, some single-A farm team.

  21. Controversy? Sheesh. I’m always the last to know.

  22. How sweet that you and your mother had a nice afternoon together with the cartoon characters!

    And it’s good you didn’t linger too long; I’m sure the trademark police showed up soon afterwards.

  23. As blogging matures and becomes more business-like…

    Blogging already has. In fact it’s reached its peak and is showing a decline… but you will never hear that from the businesses like BlogHer that rely on people thinking they can make money at it and that it is a growing trend.

    Panhandlin Elmo needs a license. I took a picture with a Panhandlin Cookie Monster during the Dave York 2 event at the Hard Rock, and he had a license to be doing it. It’s a common Times Square thing.

  24. OMG. I really, really need to get out more often. I would so pay to see a MommyBlogger throwdown.

  25. I must say that of all the back & forth (most of which I think/hope begins with good intentions)in regards to mom blogger relationships with marketers &/or one another, this has been one of the more refreshing ones. Thanks!

  26. That Elmo looks mangy and angstful.

  27. Blogging drama is just silly.

    Dude, Shrek is not affiliated with Disney in any way- and that Mickey is not official.

  28. Even the cartoons are no longer exempt. This is truly sad. Your post reminded me of something I read in the comments section on another blog recently – a young blogger (as in a relative newbie, which I suppose I am too) stated that someone left a comment on her blog about her photos saying they were fuzzy. She was upset that this was the only comment she received but was grateful to find that somebody was reading. She followed the inevitable link back to the commenter’s own blog to find people raving over equally, or perhaps even more, fuzzy shots. She ended by saying, “I don’t get it. Why are some bloggers more popular than others?”

    I was tempted to reply but didn’t because I didn’t see how my response would be constructive. My comment was going to be more along the lines of c’est la vie and I didn’t want hurt the poor girl any more.

    But, while I am okay with the idiosyncrasies of popularity in blogging since this disparity exists everywhere I am eternally befuddled by the conflicts and blogger wars. It seems so pointless.

  29. Um… did anyone else notice that the posture of Sponge Bob is a little disturbing?

  30. This is precisely why so many ordinary bloggers (like myself) don’t attend BlogHer. What you’re describing (with regard to who gets to decide what) smacks too much of high school for my taste. I mean, they say that pretty much anyone can achieve blog success, but it’s not really true. Some of the self-named (and not self-named) stars of blogging had the good fortune to get there first. They established a beach head, saved seats for some of their less talented friends and then created a quorum so powerful that there’s not much room for anyone else. I have to say that it used to really bug me, but after 3 1/2 years of blogging, I like where I am. And I’m not about to let someone else tell me what I can or can’t do. Thanks for making such good points, Neil.

  31. “MIckey looked disappointed” – I’m impressed with Mickey’s ability to emote with only a prozac induced botox smile at his disposal.

  32. i’m with postmodern sass on the spongebob pic, there is something very wrong with that pose. neil-did you notice it in person or is it just a bad camera angle?

    i’m so over the “MB’s” i can’t even comment on it.

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