Celebrity – the state or quality of being widely honored and acclaimed, until now…
The recent out pouring of adoration and praise of the late MJ was a true sign that one of our last icons was gone. Yes, it was total media overkill, yet in a time when talking about Iran is upsetting, talking about the economy is stale (it’s bad, we get that) and talking about the NYC weather is just dull (don’t bother checking, take sun when you can get it) It was time to grab onto news that was emotion enough, touches the nostalgic heart a bit, yet could be a celebration in the streets as well. We needed a fallen icon, yet one has to wonder… Where has the icon gone?
What is celebrity now? Celebrity will always be a current reflection on the societal times at hand and a reference in historical timelines that speaks more of people’s lives than of marking points of politics, climate and statistics. Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, Brad and Jennifer and Angelina, and the rest of the current musicians, artists and day time TV starlet’s I do not even know…will these people have memorials built for them if one was to suddenly die today? Perhaps the morning would be a shrine here and some home made posters, yet no one will cry for days and hold candle lit vigils. Some might argue, these people changed how we view stars! They changed what we follow and the rules of talent being needed for stardom! Surely people will care! Maybe…yet the question still remains. Icon? Changed the entire face of music or cinema? Nope. Didn’t even really change sex tapes.
Media changed. What people want now changed. A mass audience with new short attention spans and need for mindless media to obsess upon, feed on just this type of reporting. Jean Baudrillard (sociologist) in Simulacra and Simulation said “We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.” True enough for today, as there are more applications for technology pieces or websites and less “how to have real conversations with real people” tutorials. Celebrity media is part of this, as we want lots of bits of dirt and gossip, pretty faces and flashes of skin yet none hold much meaning in a grand scheme of life. This generation might be lost as the stars of myspace and narcissistic unpinning are upon us. Perhaps the message will get through to some of them.
Journalism may be up in arms with what could be their readers choosing this over real news, yet this aspect of media glows with audience approval and media-built-stardom requires a new law (or should I say it, low,) to live by. The sad and undeniable truth is…we love it. We eat it up everyday as we flood Gawker, pick up NY Post instead of The Economist and spend more time tweeting about it all than finding any real news or substance to life.
We love what celebrity media is now, especially the self satisfying part that now allows every last one of us to be “famous-ish.” Finding yourself tagged on some obscure website or being able to name drop in your status update is satisfying. It makes us feel important, too. Celebrity is unreachable, untouchable, better than us, prettier than us…and going to hell in a handbag. They spend more, do more, smoke more, snort more, fuck more…and usually survive to do it again with us drooling at the mouth to see some secret pictures or read an exclusive interview!
We are left as the simpletons cheering at their concerts, wearing their shirts and getting wet just thinking about them. Reading about them or seeing their fall-from-grace pictures connects us to them. We speak of them like they are friends, and cry about them dying. I mean, you would think we all knew MJ from the way he was gushed over, both positively and negatively. For many this “celebrity is the ultimate” causes a deep seated inferiority complex and insecurity that is set in motion at a very early age now days. Stars show the extremes of life, all the things we want to do and cannot or will not. It is an involved sick message for many that they act out their insecurity by obsessing over these stars they have put on pedestals. Others are trying to gain their own two minutes of fame. To others, why bother when you can be a socialite and get a bit of both worlds. With all the ways to photo-shop your life how you want it and showcase it to the world online, honestly or falsely, there is no stopping anyone from being a star in their own little worlds.
Stars used to have to do something. Really, talent was needed on top of a pretty face or god like bodies. Today you can be built completely on media and level of exposure. If this is thus the case, why do stars still exist? Well, there must be a “better than” for this system to work. Something to emulate, something to look up to, strive for or just live in awe of as we let them take the big risks, make the big mistakes and take the public mockery in the end. As Scallywag would say about the celebrity smut that we keep pushing the limits on breeching privacy and going as deep into star’s personal lives as we can…it may not be right, but it’s OK.
Would you really want all the nasty bits that come with being a celebrity? I would think not, though in the same breath of that question could one also question that celebrity give up their privacy when they strive and succeed at fame? Perhaps the thing we see as protected individuality is not something that is allowed of celebrity… or maybe it is and we selfishly cannot let that be. We want to get off, too, so to the newsstands and websites we stampede; there is celebrity hiding in the real news to be found.
If only the real news was just about celebrities… but maybe that’s what it has become.