Five Minutes of Fame: Sydney Spies

First off, apologies. 

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted to Popgun Chaos and for that, I’m sorry, dear readers. I actually intended on coming back at the beginning of the year, but my extended break became an even more extended break. Let me say for the record that I have missed you all dearly and I’ve just really missed the whole process of writing columns. I look back at older posts and think to myself, “Did I write that?”  because I seem to have lost my writing voice and it has hurt a little.

I don’t really like to get personal on Popgun Chaos because I don’t want this to be an over-glorified blog about my life (I’d rather it be an over-glorified blog about my reflections on pop culture), so long story short, I started a new job and it has taken up a lot of time that has kept me from this site. Furthermore, after looking back over my year of Popgun Chaos, I started to realize that I hadn’t really written anything of creative substance and I needed those projects in order to fulfill myself.

Now, I’ve got a few creative things cooking and I’m sure I’ll be announcing them as they come along, but today, I’ve got something more important on my mind: the state of education.

If you’ve been on Yahoo at all today, you’ve no doubt noticed one of their top stories with the headline “Student’s third year book photo rejected.” If you haven’t noticed the headline, then good for you and I’m sorry for having brought it to your attention. Apparently, a teen by the name of Sydney Spies (a Bond villain if I ever heard one) has submitted three photos to her high school yearbook and all three have been rejected because they were deemed “inappropriate.” So, the school opted to go with her student I.D. and she is furious.

She has also been on the Today Show and some other news organizations. This one is my favorite:

The result, of course, is a Facebook group that is far more popular than it has any business in being.

And, another of course, an anti-group that isn’t nearly as popular because it advocates for common sense.

The problems with Sydney Spies are three-fold:

1) Though she claims that they are limiting her freedom of expression, it’s a school’s prerogative to put out an inoffensive yearbook. In a sense, they are creating a product that many people are contributing to and that many will purchase, so it is their duty to make one that is inoffensive.

It’s really no different than if an editor for an anthology of essays were to edit another’s work. The writer is beholden to the editor because the editor is the one in charge and has to ensure quality of product.

The school is further in the right because she missed the deadline for a school appropriate picture, so she is stuck with the results.

2)  This sense of entitlement that students have is abhorrent and a result of the culture they have been raised in. Remember in the 90’s when people were lawsuit happy? Well, unfortunately, those people had kids and raised them to be just as entitled. Sydney Spies is a perfect example of this.

3) Finally, and more importantly than the other two reasons, the Sydney Spies incident isn’t really about education at all, but rather, a hungry media that can only be satisfied by creating celebrities out of the mundane. Students wanting to do something that a school won’t let them do isn’t anything new, but when it involves a girl who wants to dress inappropriately (please note that I am being as polite as possible and not using any of the words that immediately come to mind because I’m trying to be on my best behavior), the news has to grasp the story and use it for all its worth.

Keep in mind, I’m not really blaming Sydney with this last comment. In a way, she is a victim, but rather than her being a victim of the school like she wants to be portrayed, she is a victim in a long line of people who have been elevated to a celebrity status for doing literally nothing.

One can almost imagine the meeting that occurred when various news organizations picked up the story. “Have you heard about this story out of Colorado? A high school won’t publish a picture of a scantily clad girl in their yearbook.”

“I don’t know if we should run that, Tom. I mean, what makes it newsworthy?”

“Did I mention that she was scantily-clad?”


“Did I further mention that she is 18?”


It’s strange to think that our world has reached a point when 15 minutes of fame is almost too long. We’ve reached a point now that our world is so fast that even 15 minutes of fame is too long. Youtube has put us at a point where 5 minutes of fame is all that people get and deserve now.

For further evidence of this, watch the documentary Damn!: Is the price of fame too high? It’s on Netflix instant and it’s about the “Rent is too damn high” party, but more importantly, it’s about how the media uses people for their own entertainment.

Ignoring the fact that there are plenty of important political and social issues that the news should be covering in depth, there are so many students out there across this nation that are incredible writers, or brilliant in science and math, or talented in music or art, and none of these students are EVER discussed on the news for their accomplishments and it sickens me that those kids who have developed their minds are ignored while the story of Sydney Spies is covered by the Today Show and on Yahoo news. The news isn’t supposed to be entertainment, but that is what the news has become. Not content with reporting on facts and things of importance, the news has to keep us from questioning the world around us by entertaining us with “controversial” stories that wouldn’t have made the local paper 20 years ago.

Seriously, I’m disgusted.

It’s great to be back, folks!

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One Response to Five Minutes of Fame: Sydney Spies

  1. Steven says:

    Welcome back. I’ve missed your posts.

    I seem to remember Jon Stewart saying on more than one occasion that in a given day there is only about 15 or 20 minutes of news, yet we have 24-hour news networks. Now, these networks could choose to continue running the same stories with different commentators (which they often do) or they could create endless cycles of non-news, which is where Sydney Spies falls. The situation becomes more convoluted when you add new media to the mix, which means you now have print, television, and internet fighting for their share of the news consumer pie. Bereft of anything major happening that affects Americans (it’s not like there are any major bombing campaigns happening anywhere in the world, specifically not Syria), our media must find ‘newsworthy’ stories elsewhere and, in a nation as hung up on rights as this one, why not this one? It is perfect because it raises one demographic to outrage over oppression, while stroking the outrage of those who feel it is a stupid story. In either case, ratings will be had. Those who do not initially run with the story are soon compelled to do so because it suddenly seems everyone is talking about it. News sources win because they get ratings. Spies wins because she gets the attention she obviously craves. Our society, unfortunately, loses. We continue to be a laughingstock in foreign circles. Our self-important image is enhanced by both the sympathy and disgust toward Spies (both sides feeling they are in the right and are more enlightened than the other side). And our media becomes more entrenched in gossip-mongering rather than focusing on anything that will improve our society or our ability to impact our world for the better.

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