There’s an epidemic of ego inflation taking over the land. It seems that everyone believes that he or she is a diva and that the rest of us are mere peons. You probably know a few divas yourself. Most likely there are some in your list of Facebook “friends”. Worse, you may have to deal with a diva or two in the real world – you know, that place where people see and talk to each other without the insulating medium of a computer screen.
There are real Divas, of course. The word originally referred to female opera stars and came to include stars in the other performing arts. It derives from an Italian word that basically means goddess. It has roughly the same meaning as prima donna (literally “first lady”) which designates the leading female singer in an opera. Apparently opera stars had a reputation for being egotistical pains in the ass since this is what most of us think of when we hear the words prima donna or diva.
I suppose someone who has climbed to the pinnacle of stardom, someone who clearly has legendary talent and perseverance, has earned the right to be a bit of a pain in the ass. But the nouveau divas haven’t accomplished anything. They just like to think they are superior. I’m not talking about self-proclaimed divas that everyone has heard of – Kathy Griffin, for example. I’ll give them some credit for being spectacularly successful at self promotion.
The divas I’m trashing are the nearly unknown. They are common everyday people who play the role of diva for the small circle of acquaintances who are willing to indulge them. They are the ones who say this kind of nonsense:
“I would never stay at a hotel that didn’t have a complimentary bottle of champagne on ice waiting in my room!”
“I’ll never use that car service again. They didn’t show up on time and I had to take the subway! It was horrible. Some of those awful people brushed against me. As soon as I got home, I threw my clothes down the incinerator.”
“It’s getting to the point where I can’t go to the clubs anymore. All the bartenders absolutely insist on giving me free cocktails and, darling, there’s a limit to how many Martinis even I can handle.”
It’s easy enough to understand why people get seduced into playing the role of diva; I’ve even lapsed into it myself a few times. We’d all like to have the life of a mega-star with millions of fans who would die to have our fabulous life. What I can’t understand is why otherwise ordinary people encourage this behavior by playing the role of adoring fan. They are the ones who reply to the diva’s absurd prattle with one of the many variations of “you poor thing, you deserve so much better,” or “I wish my life was as fabulous as yours.” Why do they play the fool to prop up some undeserving ego? Are they so starved for friendship that they are willing to subordinate themselves to some boorish person who will cast them aside the moment they fail to genuflect in the diva’s presence?
Strictly speaking a male diva is a divo. But since most male divas are gay men with a lot of affectations, it’s probably alright to call them divas. They will argue that playing the part of diva is innocent fun. It’s just an extension of the camp. They will claim that gay men have always loved their camp icons from the classics – Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand – to the contemporaries such as Lady GaGa and the previously mentioned
But unlike the divas of pop culture, the army of recent unknown divas haven’t done anything of note. They want to bask in the glory without having given us anything in return. At some point innocent fun deteriorates into self indulgent tedium and there is already an abundance of tedium in our lives. Do yourself and the world a favor: stop feeding the divas.