Wednesday, October 22, 2008
"When you are on the phone or on the air, you have no body." Marshall McLuhan
A funny thing happens to me when I'm in public but not as a member of the media. At a checkout a sales person might say, "You seem really familiar to me. Do I know you?" Or at a party someone might say, "You remind me of someone I know. Do you have a sister?"
Of course, when I'm making a personal appearance on behalf of the radio station I work for or while wearing logo-ed clothing, when I speak people will recognize me as a voice on the radio.
A couple of days ago the Wookie and I were out for a hike, miles from home and miles into the woods. We were just starting on a new trail when a mom, dad, two kids, and their dog came towards us. We stopped to chat for a moment and the mom looked at me and said, "You're Shauna MacKinnon, aren't you?" I wasn't wearing any identifying clothing so I knew she recognized the voice. "Yes," I said laughing. She was quite excited about meeting me (I mean, who wouldn't be, right?) and said they listen at work all the time. I asked where she worked, she told me, and we went our separate ways.
Years ago I met a woman who was just beginning her career in radio. She told me that before we met she listened to me and imagined diamonds and pearls. The day we met, I was in my sweatsuit. I destroyed that illusion. Some folks imagine me as an Amazon blonde. And most have said they thought I was younger than I am. I am neither.
In this day and age of the internet you can find any body and find out what they look like. It's a little frightening at times when I read about stalkers and those obsessed with on air personalities, but it can happen to anyone, not just those in the public eye. I've had a few people call and ask me out despite not knowing what I look like or how old I am or if I'm attached or not. I politely decline. (When one guy asked me out for a beer, my dad told me I should have said "Yes, my dad and I would love to go for a beer with you" )
Relatives asked me about TV a lot over the years, if I'd like to do that instead of radio. Like we say in the industry, I've got a face for radio. Actually, I'm not the most photogenic person on the earth, though I am cute (and attractive to the Wookie, I might add). The cuteness just doesn't translate to TV however. I have a few friends in TV, one on a nationally broadcast show, and they all contend with constant recognition. If you're on TV, you can't have a bad day in public. You can't make an anonymous complaint at the service desk of Home Depot. You have to smile and be happy with everyone all the time or you're branded as a b###ch or b#####d.
People will criticize everything about you when you're on TV. "OMG, that haircut!" "I can't believe she's wearing that!" "That really makes him look fat!" All this, despite the fact that the talking heads are quite often told what to wear or how to wear their hair. The general public will focus on what they see rather than the message that is broadcast. Our bodies can get in the way of the message. I like not having a body.
"The medium is the message." Marshall McLuhan
Sometimes we want our bodies to be the message. I have been asked to appear in news reports about MS over the years. Most reporters are surprised to see that I don't have a cane or walker or wheelchair - because that's what the general public's perception of MS is.( How many times have we MSers been told we "look great" after disclosing our illness?) I want people to see that I am an active participant in my community, that I cycle and hike and sometimes dance, that I work and play. I show my activity to emphasize that I can lose that any time. This is my reality. And if I can lose my functioning body, so can the audience. If I should lose any functioning I will show that as well because that will be my reality. And I'll probably still be cute.