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Methinks They Do Protest

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When Moses brought down the word telling the Israelites how to lead exemplary lives one of the top ten was to stop the worship of graven images. NO MORE IDOLS for the masses. In those days that was an edict fairly easy to execute because the golden calf didn’t have a publicist and there were no hoards of reporters ready to report on their every hanging participle.

“Methinks she doth protest too much” said one of Shakespeare’s characters concerning the another’s protestations of denial. It has been suggested that perhaps the same could be said for our newest idols. That those individuals who decry the intrusion in their lives the loudest by the masses of paparazzi are those most desirous of said attention.

How many of us get paid fifteen million dollars for six to eight weeks work of being ourselves? How many of us have a publicist who issues statements about whether or not we have a girlfriend? Do you honestly believe that people who consider it necessary to hire someone to issue statements about their personal lives are not courting the attention they claim to despise?

The argument could be made that the press have made such accoutrements essential. That in order to maintain some vestige of control these people are forced into the position of having their lives filtered through press releases. By giving out tidbits they are able to keep the feeding frenzy to a minimum and maintain some semblance of privacy in otherwise public lives.

But there’s where the dichotomy starts to rear it’s ugly little head. Haven’t these “idols” by their very seeking to obtain that status come to a tacit agreement that their lives are for public consumption? When people like a Mr. Cruise and a Ms. Diaz protest, both who have recently made headlines for their complaints about the media, who are they appealing to for sympathy?

Having carefully constructed careers conditional upon public adoration: the more that people lay out shekels to worship their image the higher the wattage of their star power, what did they expect? That they could shut off what they had created? With the worship comes the heightened expectations and demands.

They couldn’t have been blind to past history. One only need to look at the lengths people have gone to obtaining relics from previous stars. Those who buy sweat stained pieces of Elvis’ scarves with all the devotion shown to a shard of the true cross surely must have prepared you for what was in store?

The shocked protestations that accompany ringing denouncements of the popular press are as hollow as the smiles they flash during their promotional tours. How can we be expected to take them seriously when a person books himself into the couches and chairs of the public confessionals that are talk shows in order to publicize their private life?

With those actions they generate the expectation that we are privy to their innermost secrets. Their efforts to increase popularity and polish their shine only serve to generate the insatiable appetite the public has for information. Demanding that people pay attention to you, and then giving them reason to, unsurprisingly enough results in them doing so.

Why are there certain of these people who seem to attract more attention then others? There are those who are continually on the covers of the mass circulation media, or being featured in stories. Could there be a correlation to the number of times that their faces appear staring out at you from photos of parties, openings, and charity events?

Occasionally there will be attempts made to drag a name that stays out of the light into the glare of revelation. But, because that person has not cultivated an idol identity, they never stay there for long. The mass attention span being what it is, if there is not continual reinforcement, interest quickly wanes and the public eye moves on.

One can choose to make a career out of being an actor, a musician, or any type of performer, or you can choose to be a star. In the case of the former they do their work, and then go home at the end of the day. They may not be making the same amount of money as the star, or have the same name recognition, but they have a life.

The star makes a conscious decision to pursue the course they have taken. If they didn’t like what the results were they could stop playing the game. They set out to become a caricature of a human being: everything about them blown up larger then life, and they have succeeded.

In Rudyard Kipling’s short story The Man Who Would Be King he tells the tale of two ex British soldiers in the Indian army who set out to find a small country to rule. When a tribe mistake them for gods instead of men they are quickly elevated to exalted positions. But when their humanity is revealed the tribe turns on them and leaves them for dead.

By setting themselves up as idols for the masses today’s stars strip themselves of their humanity. Unknowingly or not that is still the result. They have intentionally strived for and elevated themselves to a level of wealth and power that few of us could ever hope to obtain. Like Kipling’s soldiers signs of humanity could bring about their downfall.

The pact they have entered into with press ensures that they are kept larger then life. Their trysts, their flings, their parties, and their marriages are reported down to the last detail. Their faces loom down on us from billboards tens of times larger then life, and stare back at us when we line up for groceries. They are omnipresent because they want to be.

The golden calf that Moses prohibited was built by men to be worshiped as a God. Today’s idols are still built by men(and women)but by those desiring to be worshiped. Since they demand the attention they so decry, protestations ring hollow. They know perfectly well that the old saying of “ Any publicity being good publicity” is essential to the maintenance of their status.

The fact remains that the only thing keeping them in the public eye is their desire to be there. Like an addict who has grown dependant on their drug, they need the attention to survive. They could step down off the pedestal they’ve placed underneath them at any time. But they like the view from up high and aren’t about to surrender. Otherwise they would have done so long ago.

Spare your sympathy for those who truly deserve it. Not for those who complain about achieving their goals.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://www.ernestoburden.com Ernesto

    Whether or not these modern “idols” (nicley apt Old Testament metaphor, by the way) are setting themselves up for the sort of treatment they get from the public, their choices, good, bad or otherwise, can hardly justify bad behavior on the part of the press or public. To follow your metaphor out a bit: the biblical prohibition against idol worship wasn’t directed at the idols, it was directed at the people who might worship those idols.