News item: David Beckham will leave the L.A. Galaxy and U.S. Major League Soccer behind next month after the current season ends.
Farewell, David and Victoria Beckham. We hardly knew ye. And we hardly cared.
Five years ago this past summer, I watched a few minutes of “Victoria Beckham: Coming to America,” an NBC prime-time special that captured the English soccer star and his wife (otherwise known as Posh Spice) as they prepared to decamp for America.
David was to play for the L.A. Galaxy — hmmm, funny how he didn’t end up in a smaller market, like Houston or Salt Lake — while Victoria’s immediate strategy was somewhat less firmly defined. Her short-lived solo music career had already run its course by 2007; her next steps toward the spotlight seemed mainly to involve mingling and looking stylish.
It was no secret that both Beckhams had their eyes set on stardom in the States. The special was meant to explain to us glamour-hungry Yanks why we should pick up our end of the deal.
Even at the time, NBC seemed to concede that the mission might fail. Reports said the network had bought into a reality-style miniseries featuring the couple, but had truncated it to a one-hour special instead.
I watched with prejudice. The Beckhams’ apparent expectation that they would land in America and be swathed in a gossamer coat of celebrity rather grated on me.
“Coming to America,” then, was a triumph of schadenfreude. The Beckhams were young, in love, rich, skinny, reasonably good-looking … and, still, pretty much totally lacking in any kind of magnetism or duende.
And while the show received decent ratings by the standards of its time slot, Beckhamania failed to materialize in the States.
Even in a country willing to give unholy amounts of recognition to the likes of Kourtney Kardashian, neither of the Beckhams were able to build up any kind of widespread celebrity buzz.
(It should be acknowledged that David Beckham — unlike many celebrity aspirants — was legitimately talented in his chosen field. Unfortunately, his chosen field happens to be one that relatively few Americans care about. Several years of his best efforts have not changed their minds.)
This 2009 kiss-off from The Guardian turned out to be a bit premature — David Beckham went back to the Galaxy after it was published, and even won an MLS title with them a year or two ago. Still, I would say its assessment of the Beckhams’ cultural impact holds true:
“Nobody gives a shit about them in the US,” says Frank Griffin, of the paparazzi agency Bauer-Griffin. “It’s just a big yawn, quite honestly. I think the reason he came to America was that she [Victoria] wanted to become a personality here, but she was never going to make it. And he’ll never make it. He could never be a success on the talk shows because of his voice.”
Why am I going to these lengths to dump on two people who are guilty of nothing more criminal than having stars in their eyes?
Because I loathe celebrity culture like a plague. I hate news outlets and websites that feed it. And I have no use for people who intentionally, strategically court and pursue it.
Way too many of the spotlight seekers get what they’re after. I know too many of their names, just from using the Internet every day and going through grocery store checkout lines every week.
So, to me, it is a small triumph when a campaign for celebrity falls short.
The high-budget PR flacks, groomers and image-makers win way too often. It is cause for celebration when they find they cannot sell the people something the people do not want.
The Beckhams may be good human beings under their glamour. (They are much kinder and less judgmental than I, no doubt.) And I bear them no specific ill will as they set off for their next adventure, whatever it may be.
And yet, I am already looking forward to the moment, maybe five or 10 years from now, when some random mental lightning flash makes me think to myself: “Remember when we were supposed to be interested in David and Victoria Beckham? What was that all about?”