Friday, January 27, 2006

15 minutes of fame is too much for some

This is again ironic coming from a blogger (admittedly one no one is probably reading!), but I really am sick to death of the whole fame thing. Everyone likes to be thought well of (something some of us feel a lack of - maybe that's why some of us blog???). Everyone likes to do things that others appreciate. I write for a couple of publications, none of which pay (and blogging certainly doesn't!!!), and I want a few people at least to think I am making a worthwhile contribution to something, anything. But fame as such isn't my main focus (although being well known would be ok, not notoriety though, or infamy).

However, there are a few things that annoy me about popularity and fame in western culture. People are famous, sought after and indeed harassed for the most stupid and pointless things. Take reality TV shows for example (preferably off the air!) Sorry to sound a little snobbish, but this sort of TV is get-a-life TV, not real-life TV. People need to socialize, and part of that socialistic is "gossip". Gossip fulfils an important social role, but it is condemned in the bible - most probably when it is idle and or malicious. But we talk, and this is what in part defines us. Get-a-life TV gives us something to talk about, the sordid sex lives of others, their ruthlessness in dealing with each other where money is involved. Reality TV people typically gain fame but ruthlessness, dubious behaviour and luck.

TV talent shows are something of a mixed blessing. If you don't cut it, everyone sees (and possibly vicariously experiences) your embarassment. A collective sigh of "thank God not me!". These shows uncover real talent, but I wonder if these people can ever escape the tag of "manafactured star"? In one sense, few acts can given the power and influence of record labels.

It's worth pondering too how it is people earn fame. In this country, royalty of any kind seems popular. So what? Lucky by birth (or in Mary's case, marriage) these people are rich. Some of them do sweet FA for society and behave badly (and yes, we get to hear all about it). I felt sorry for Diana as many did, but she was no angel nor plaster saint. Who can fully understand the outpouring of grief at her death. Three cheers for empathy, but it went beyond the pale.

And what of actors? It is arguable that a fine actor adds to our culture, less arguable for less fine actors (trying not to be snobbish), but of course culture and fine are both in the eye of the beholder. Of course, quality and success are not necessarily measures in technically defining "cult following", which can mean small success, average quality but large following (again, all slippery terms). However, no matter how fine an actor Nicole Kidman is, I am not interested in her love life, her fashion sense (typical male) or how good a mum she is (apparently, a former nanny has written a "tell all" book). I might be more interested in these things of someone I know personally (and certainly in the case of my wife). It seems to suggest to me that we have an unhealthy interest in the dirt in other people's lives because our are too boring, or we would really like to have lives of fame, fortune and sexual activity. Too bad for us - knowing when to be satisfied with what you have (especially compared to most of the world) is not a bad thing. It also speaks to me of social disconnection - if you are going to gossip, do it about people you really know (and even care about).

Of course too, these days people in the money game are famoous where once they were despised (as John Ralston Saul repeats often with delight). What do merchant bankers, money market speculators and insider traders add to society.

Here's to famous artists, selfless politicians, great humanitarians, scientists and people who actually really do add to society and culture. Let's talk about them (but less about their dress sense and who they bonk). Let them have 15 minutes and more.

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