The first in a series of guest posts about...whatever is on the guest's mind, pretty much. Today, Pete L'Official ponders the global, cultural and globo-cultural implications of the new Gossip Girl promo, and its bizarre reference to a dangerously tanned, illogically talented and deeply divisive young footballer famous everywhere but here.
"When will the day come, that I will walk the streets and be recognized by people?"
Cristiano Ronaldo, Moments, (Macmillan, 2007)
It is not often that the absolutely ephemeral can so casually contain within it an equally absolute watershed. "Watershed," perhaps because the choice to reference, or more accurately, re-imagine the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year and European Footballer of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo's even more recent off-field, Stateside exploits on an upcoming episode of the CW's Gossip Girl reveals both its writers' ravenous appetite for clever consumption and fashionable repackaging of a form of mediated reality for its audience, and perhaps an even more fearless willingness to make a joke that only a select few may get -- or even care about.
Let's be clear: while the actual scene plays as unremarkably as any other which relies on a throwaway cultural reference to make its humorous point (the name of Serena's summer dalliance could as easily have been "Jesus Luz" or, hell, even "Salman Rushdie" it is curious that the newly-minted star (amongst stars) of Real Madrid C.F. would find himself so quickly a cultural signifier in a country within which physically he has barely spent two summers.
In a way, however, it is not surprising in the least. In fact, it was only a matter of time. Ronaldo and Gossip Girl were bound to meet, or rather, they were bound together from their relative births into the pop cultural sphere. The show itself trades on the very fact that many of its references are, or at the very least seem, intended for a limited, indeed almost infinitesimally small audience -- therein lies part of the appeal of the show (Much of the rest can be credited to whoever writes Chuck Bass's lines). Yet exactly how many Gossip Girl-watching, Anglophilic, soccer-mad consumers of footballer and WAG gossip are there out there? One can only guess. Both Ronaldo and Gossip Girl are purveyors -- and exemplars -- of a "certain brand of triumphant, unapologetic, and compelling narcissism" that is detestable to some and to be marveled at by all.
For Ronaldo himself, the stakes are certainly rather different. Quite simply, there are no stakes (beyond the fact that he almost certainly will have two more actresses to holler at next time he spends some time on this side of the Atlantic). Yet, to have "arrived," so to speak, on the shores of American cultural common parlance so quickly and so unexpectedly does give one pause, at least, with time for a few questions.
When, and how, does one arrive in the sense that we mean? How might this be different in other nations and other spheres of cultural influence? And what does it mean to "arrive" in America in the pop cultural sense anyway?
For a moment, let's ignore David Beckham (Oh, that's right...). Ronaldo presents a different case than does Beckham: quite simply, despite his immense fame around the globe and great professional successes (also with Manchester United and Real Madrid) David Beckham was never -- officially or unofficially -- the best player in the world. Ronaldo's sporting bonafides have nearly outstripped those of the man whose Manchester United number he inherited, not to mention the not-altogether-minor fact that those who have yet to hear Ronaldo in a live interview need not double-take at his voice as one might with the lilting Essex-inflected tones that escape Beckham's gob. And all from the tiny nation of Portugal -- more precisely, the even tinier Atlantic Ocean archipelago of Madeira.
For the rest of the footballing world, this man needs no introduction. (Except when he does). Someone -- namely one of the most famous sporting clubs in the world paid the princely sum of 80 million British pounds -- $132 million U.S. dollars -- for the rights to his contract in the middle of a world economic collapse. Kind of like a big deal. Yet, it is via the teen soap of the moment, via the pages of Hello! and OK! (where Ronaldo's own romantic dalliance received more play than it did here), via the sharpened tongue of Blair Waldorf, that mainstream America is introduced to "Cristiano Ronaldo." How bizarre. And, frankly, exciting. The (halfway) facetiously-hailed "greatest show of our time" has nodded in the direction of an audience that either doesn't exist, or is eerily wondering what sub-cultural eccentricity of theirs will be ripe for the next shout-out. Who knows? They might be one in the same...