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What’s going on
Right now, I am 21 posts (this is number 21) into a 32 topic series based on a list of 100 wisest words from a teacher. Why not 100? Well, some of them…while definitely wise…didn’t lend themselves to a blog I could tie to either VO or acting. So, I culled it down to the 32 I thought best fit. Yeah, it started as 38…but well…I culled again. Anyway, if you want to see the earlier posts, head over to the blog archive page and have a look around.
Continuing the series
With this week’s topic “Don’t boo. Even the ref is somebody’s son”.
Why do we boo?
I mean, I think we all know what booing IS, but why are some people compelled to do it? According to Wikipedia we boo to “…show[ing] displeasure for someone or something, generally in response to an entertainer, by loudly yelling, “Boo!” and sustaining the “oo” sound by holding it out”.
It’s KIND OF Universal
While the idea of booing is pretty universal, in other words the idea of using a verbal gesture or sound to show displeasure is universal, the actual word “boo” is really only an English phenomenon. In other country’s people will whistle, or sometimes hiss to show displeasure. In some places, it’s just “ooooo” without the B.
Booing at Halloween is OK, though
Not all boos are bad! We also use the boo sound to denote ghosts. If your little one, or even you, are dressed as a ghost, boo to your hearts content. Also, if your spouse or significant other should be slightly distracted when entering a room…yelling boo is acceptable. Well, except to them. If you don’t mind ticking off your partner, go ahead and yell boo when they walk around the corner. Oh, but make sure you videotape it with your phone so we can all laugh at you when you get your butt kicked.
It’s been around a while
Booing is not a new idea. The first record of booing comes from ancient Greece at the annual Festival of Dionysia in Athens where playwrights competed to determine whose tragedy was the best. The audience applauded to show approval, and booed or whistled to show displeasure.
In ancient Rome during gladiatorial games, audience members (and the emperor if he was there) used applause and booing…along with either a thumbs up or thumbs down…to signal whether or not the gladiator (performer) should be fed to a lion or live to fight another day. I’ll just note that I’m pretty glad lions are not a part of performances today.
In both of these cases
For both the Greek and Roman performances, audience participation in this way was not only expected, but required. Applause or boos determined who “won” the competition. It was kind of like a real-time Rotten Tomatoes. But a low score (in the csse of Romans at least) could be pretty detrimental to the performer.
The practice of booing continues today. Thankfully, booing at stage plays and musical performances are rare, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries not only might you get booed, but people would also throw rotten fruit and vegetables at the stage. As I think about that, I consider the amount of planning that had to go into it. First, you had to buy fruit & vegetables, then let them rot, then remember to bring them with you to the theater. Seems like too much work to me.
If you are going to hear booing at a public event these days, most likely you are at a sporting event. Fans tend to boo THEIR team when they make a mistake or a bad play and tend to boo the OPPOSING team when they make a good play. Most often though, fans boo the ref when they make a call that the fans don’t agree with. Personally, I’m not sure why anyone would want to officiate a sporting event. No matter WHAT they do, someone is going to be unhappy.
Everyone’s a critic. Just take a look at Amazon and read some of the reviews. I swear there are people out there whose goal in life is to complain about everything. An “official” critic, one who writes critical performance reviews for a magazine or newspaper, are what I call “Professional Booers”. Man, a bad review can really sting!
Whether you are a commercial VO artist, an audio book narrator, or a stage/screen actor, a bad review can set you back pretty hard. Sometimes it feels like just not getting selected for the job is a form of bad review, although that’s not necessarily so. Since performers are typically in the public eye, a bad review is ALSO public and can be, at best, embarrassing and, at worst, humiliating.
At my day job, which for 41 years was with the US Navy (20 active, 21 as a Federal employee) our motto was: Praise in public, punish in private. Calling someone out publicly for bad performance was not something you wanted to do because it was bad for morale. Public praise served two purposes: Building up the good performer and encouraging the rest of the team.
As a performer
In this industry it seems the motto is: Praise in public, punish in public. You really have to have a thick skin to be in the performance industry! We’re taught, and we tell ourselves and others all the time, to ignore reviews altogether. It’s great in theory, but very difficult to put into practice. We performers tend to look for validation of our work, and reviews are the way we get that. Sure, box office numbers and show ratings help, but we really would like to hear that all that hard work preparing for and performing a role was appreciated.
So, we read them
We really can’t help it. We can tell a fellow actor to not pay attention to reviews in the morning and be agonizing over a bad review by lunch. I think it’s human nature. Anyone who has gotten a bad review will know that feeling of being stabbed in the heart. Bad reviews, getting publicly booed, just don’t feel very good. It can affect your performance going forward which just make the whole thing like a self-licking lollipop; bad review, decrease in performance because of it, leading to more bad reviews…etc, etc…
It CAN backfire though
Sometimes, particularly in sporting events, getting booed (especially by the opposing team’s fans) can harden a player to perform even better…but honestly, that’s rare. Typically getting booed makes you self-conscious and reduces performance.
Ever been booed?
Or had a bad review, or been called out for poor performance at work? How did that make you feel? Probably not very good! My mother used to say, “If you don’t have anything good to say about someone, don’t say anything at all”. And of course my dad who said: “Never treat anyone in a way that you wouldn’t want to be treated”. Both pieces of good advice.
The next time you are feeling inclined to send out a resounding Booooooooo!, or to write someone a critical review, stop for a moment and think about how what you are about to do would make YOU feel if you were in their shoes. And remember: Don’t boo. Even the ref is somebody’s son.