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The Disease of Unwarranted Fame

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The public anticipation over the possible Heidi Montag sex tape got me to thinking about how fame is acquired in recent years.

It used to be that the spotlight was garnered from doing something monumental. One could become known for scientific discoveries, political clout, or academy award nominations. There were those who attained notoriety for the most extreme in human wretchedness as well ; the peculiar circus that followed Leopold and Loeb would be an example. Back in the day, there was a reason (or multitude of them) why an individual may grace the cover of the New York Post.

Today, however is a different time. We live in the age of instant celebrity. It is fast and fleeting and often undeserved. Like a Max Headroom plotline, fame can indeed be bought and sold. All one has to do is come from the right family and attend the right nightclubs, and he or she can indeed become a star, even if only for a nanosecond. The ultimate fame-maker amongst young women nowadays seems to be the sex tape. Once a marker of shady character, the display of one’s sexual acrobatics has become a stepping stone to stardom.

The wealthy have always been creatures of intrigue. Names like Rothschild and Getty were known amongst common folk, their tales of fortunes won giving the average person something to aim for. The superior genius displayed by Einstein and Curie were celebrated curiosities. There was a sense of entitlement to be sure, but behaving truly awfully could destroy public image and a career forever.

Our modern society now celebrates fame, but seems to have no concern for how it is acquired. The intellectual celebrity is fast becoming a thing of the past, with talented writers replaced by filthy gossips and innovative scientists with experiments in human decrepitude. Instead of admiring the exquisiteness of the debutante’s mannerisms, we jealously pursue the inner workings of her reproductive parts.

In our age a politician may work tirelessly to pass meaningful legislation, but you won’t know his name until he is caught with his pants down in the presence of someone not his partner. An athlete may be superior to his peers but invisible in comparison with his mates caught in scandal. The actor with the most DUI or assault convictions can garner more attention than those with enviable talents.

Fame has become a commodity that is bought and sold with little-to-no experience required. All one needs to do to be famous is have a few of the right friends and behave in the most reprehensible way possible.

And who can blame them? When you can make millions of dollars per annum drinking and sleeping with whomever you want, there is no incentive to be the better person. When you know that you don’t have the talent of Leonardo DiCaprio, but someone offers you a chance to hang at the same nightclubs, many would jump at the opportunity. Most people want affirmation, and like eternal children, some have discovered that the only way to have a shot at the big time is to sell their souls to the highest bidder.

There will become a time, hopefully soon, that folks will become irritated by the spectacle. Everyday people will stop enjoying the train wreck and tune their attentions to things not on VH1 or TMZ. The body politic will become focused on those who make them feel joy in humanity’s gifts as opposed to its seediest underlay. We will become sick of schadenfreude and embrace those who make us enlightened.

About Michelle Galipeau

  • http://amba12.wordpress.com amba (Annie Gottlieb)

    John Lahr defined celebrity as “the art of being well known for being famous, and being famous for being well known.”

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Isn’t fame an ideal case of being careful of what you wish for? I don’t know what a “star” is anymore, but those people dancing on ABC don’t seem like that. Sometimes I don’t even know who they are.

    I think reality TV is part of it, and people are now ready as soon as they see a camera to get in on the whole “fame” thing. Weird, wild stuff is going on that’s for sure.

  • http://rooferonfire.blogspot.com Michelle Galipeau

    Well, schadenfreude cinema, the pseudoreality genre is a trend, and fads do pass. Herein lies the small shred of hope.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/realist Realist

    The medium is the message, and the monster must be fed fresh blood lest the ratings drop. New faces fade quickly in the repetitive environment of the media, so replacements must be found that attract attention. Those who seek attention will expose themselves in the most intimate ways to be those replacements. And as long as the rest of us waste our lives on the other end of the TV taking all of this in, it is useless to decry the situation. Shut the damn boob tube off and get a life!