The Name of the Fame

It’s *Insert Reality Star/Celebrity’s Name* Existential Question Time. The new culture of ‘celebrity’.  I beg many questions.

I’m a student of pop culture. I find some entertainment shows and blogs interesting.  And some ‘celebrities’ endlessly entertaining – the good, the bad, the trainwrecks. I like to watch.

The carefully ‘cultivated’ public image. The cleverly timed photo ops. Have a movie to sell? Can’t get rid of you. The same careful answers. The fake relationship, the standard press. Nothing original. Seemingly robotic. Planned interviews, so no, you can’t ask these questions. This is the script I follow. Yeah, scripts can be good. They’re written by writers. Some are questionable. Too many edits. Maintaining the carefully crafted and manicured ‘image’. Lies, really. The truth is out there. Maybe. Or whatever version is being sold or told. This week. Next week, there’ll be a better version. The requisite PR soundbite. Beneath the tan, the battle continues to rage.

There are some ‘lines’ that are one step short of being crossed, and some actually probably have been. When does the idea of ‘entertainment’ become so skewed in that seemingly everything is for sale?  How much self-compromise for ‘fame’? Is there genuine concern for the troubled? Or, great, this person will make a great ten second soundbite! No compassion for what the fame industry has spat out? Realizing that attention is just a symptom of the damage already there?

Gossip plays a role. But even then, it seems to be just part of the current state of ‘entertainment’ and the industry as a whole. Just another way of getting publicity – any publicity – to keep relevant and in the public eye. No such thing as negative publicity. That’ll just give you a redemption story and get you even more press. I’ll take anything I can get, thank you.

Most of the early evening entertainment shows are geared to what is termed the “Minivan Majority”. The relatively ‘normal’ life that is the average middle class life – the minivan, the marriage, the day jobs, the home in the suburbs, the kids, and the white-picket fence. A sanitized life.  Bliss, really. Or the societal norm. The aspiration of what should be. It’s on every TV commercial. Not really reality, but a slightly distorted mirror of the ‘reality’ show, only without the cameras. And the editing to frame the ‘story’.

Hollywood beckons, the Dream Factory is just that. Suited for mainly the middle class and the dreams that have been culturally instilled. Stars are created perfection, you see the gowns at the award shows, you go to the movies, you watch television, you lead a safe, classically ‘happy’ life.  The actual reality? Well, who knows.

A few years ago, someone told me that he felt that fame was 99 percent worthless. I looked at this person quizzically. Really? Perhaps in his case it was a case of the worth he assigned to it.  People seek ‘fame’ or whatever it means to them. For many people, it’s quite the siren. Circe in ‘The Odyssey’ didn’t hold a candle to that which is the ‘fame juggernaut’ today. My friend didn’t mind ‘fame’ in small quantities, if that was possible. Even he questioned that.

Many people today still heed the siren’s call. Whether they have the skills or maturity to understand it, handle it, or even remotely deal with it in all its forms, is questionable. Fame is an abstraction. It’s elusive, it’s intangible. You can’t grab it too tightly. Fame is fleeting. And it’s what you make it.  And what you bring to it.  And in the end, how it makes ‘you’. You can’t cherry pick what you want from it. It is what it is, and it comes with what you like (aka the good stuff), and its less seemly side.

Earned fame seems to be a rare commodity these days. The new fame has become an addiction, or a case of  “I deserve my fifteen minutes”.  Uh no, you don’t. The world may not agree with you.

The actual concept of talent or bringing something to the world has gone out of vogue; and ‘fame’ appears to have become little more than some weird sense of  entitlement. No actual work involved. No honing your talent, paying your dues.  Just the idea that you are ‘special’ and that you can be famous, no matter how.

Did you write something that perhaps opens the eyes of the world to a new way of thinking? Did it inspire another person to make his or her life better? Did you make someone laugh or cry? Did you put a new reflection on some aspect of humanity?

Or did you create something beautiful? A painting, or work of art of some sort. No, sex tapes don’t count.  Did you compose a piece of music that entertained people or had some intrinsic beauty? Probably not. It’s all about your getting rich and being on television (or in a movie). Addictions spiral out of control. The perfect little snowball. And you’re the snowball.

Let’s face it, fame is addictive. You have some, you want more. And more. And more. It can be insatiable.  The perks are great.  You’re the embodiment of a twisted new American Dream – to get yourself on to TV without doing a whole lot of work. Other than being yourself. Whatever that may be. What might sell. What’s your price? For a few hundred dollars, you can conceive whatever you want on video. And people will watch it, download it, mash it up, discuss it on the Internet. And make you ‘famous’. Or perhaps ‘celebritised’. That’s maybe the new word for the new fame blip.  The cycle will perpetuate until you are destroyed. And smugly and self-satisfyingly so. The masses will cheer in the new Colosseum.

And start to see yourself as someone? Interesting mirror.

Reality shows are inexpensive, and people love to watch shows that fit their value system. Or curiosity. Or feel better about themselves after watching a ‘trainwreck’. Can’t help to gawk. Human nature.

I’ve read some articles recently on the ‘fame game’ becoming some sort of new division of the classes. The opinions of the rich (aka today’s ‘celebrities’) are relevant. Anyone else, not so much.

Everyone plays a role in the ‘name of the fame’ – the celebrity, the media, the viewer/fan. All are complicit in the game and the cycle.

It won’t get better any time soon. More ‘reality’ shows will come out, more people to exploit. More new celebrities. Out with the old, in with the new. The fame game will change its rules. But hey, that’s entertainment!


~ by hooklineandthinker on May 5, 2010.

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