If Gatsby lived in our day, he would be a teen pop star. He’s cute, he’s popular, he’s rich, he has fancy parties, and he’s really, really, really good at pretending that he’s perfect. He has the kind of charisma that allows him to protect himself while still making you feel like you’re a part of his close circle of friends.
He also has his share of flaws, and yet I’m willing to look past them and only see who I want to believe exists, the same way that girls still idolize Justin Bieber. I love that Gatsby exists and stands outside Nick’s door in the rain and pretends that he hasn’t been waiting for Daisy for like an hour, but when things get real and serious and Gatsby’s flaws start to threaten his image, I run away and ignore it all to protect myself.
Perhaps I’m a bit more like Daisy Buchannan than I’d like to admit.
Perhaps neither of us really loves Gatsby; rather, we love the fact that someone like him exists. I close that book believing that one fine morning…and I ignore what The Great Gatsby is really about. I claim love for Gatsby, but I probably don’t really love him any more than the average 12-year-old girl loves Justin Bieber. I love him obsessively, and at the same time, not at all.
I say that I love Gatsby because he is the great romanticist, but he himself is greatly romanticized. Gatsby pretends in order to make his life more perfect, and I pretend to make Gatsby more perfect. But then again, so does everyone else in that book.
Everyone spends the first half of that book literally obsessed with Gatsby, going to his parties and making up absurd stories about his past. But then he dies, and no one shows up at his funeral. And after about a year, I’m willing to bet that Gatsby is a name that they only remember when someone says, “Hey, remember when Gatsby was popular?”, the same way that the Jonas Brothers faded slowly into oblivion after their five years of fame expired.
Even Nick, the only person who seems to really care about Gatsby as a person, is a romanticist at heart. If Nick were not a romanticist, Gatsby would not be great. It’s easy to see how Gatsby made himself great, but the truth is that his greatness was solidified into eternity by the people who believed that he was great, despite all that happened to him.
Everyone calls Gatsby the great romanticist because it is romantic to think of him as such, but in fact, everyone around him is a great romanticist themselves.
Gatsby’s questionable greatness, though, doesn’t make him any less important. Is One Direction truly great? Maybe. But no one can say that they weren’t an important part of this decade, at least for the average 12-year-old girl who goes to their concerts and hangs posters of them on her wall and watches their videos endlessly on YouTube. Saying that they weren’t important to her life is like saying that Darren Criss wasn’t important to mine.
I think that’s what a lot of people don’t understand about teen pop stars. To me, Darren Criss is an image, but that doesn’t mean that his songs can’t make me smile when I’m sad, or that he can’t inspire me to run faster or spread my wings further.
And Gatsby is the same. Perhaps Gatsby was not truly great, but to his admirers, in all of their wealth and carelessness, he was important.
I like to pretend that I’m a better person than all the people who didn’t attend Gatsby’s funeral, but I forget about teen pop stars as they fade away into our culture of wealth and carelessness. Gatsby was the disposable sacrifice of a group of wealthy people, looking for an image to believe in, and in many ways, teen pop stars are not much different.
So I’ll be the first to admit it: I was in love with Joe Jonas in the 7th grade, I have two rolls of Justin Bieber wrapping paper in my closet, and I spent a good three hours of my life this week becoming a Directioner. The image that we place upon these people is perhaps a great societal flaw, but the least I can do is appreciate them for it before they suffer Gatsby’s inevitable fate.