By: Richard Ray
To say that we live in interesting times would be an understatement. One of the most interesting issues is the idea of celebrity and its pervasive and increasing influence on our society.
As Film, Television, the Internet and now Social Media have grown so has the concept of celebrity and fame. The mediums and platforms for disseminating information have had a profound effect on the creation of celebrity. It used to be that fame came from newspaper headlines. Our most famous people used to be sports and war heroes as well as captains of industry and infamous criminals, world leaders and scholars.
The advent of the film industry brought fame to a new level. Grainy pictures in the paper and names could now be bolstered by images on the big screen. The glamour of actors and celebrity were becoming the benchmark for fame followed closely by whomever was in the first televised newscasts that usually preceded the movies.
Television was the next platform and now people, from the comfort of their homes, could watch programming that made all regulars on the screen famous throughout the country. Prior to cable television there were only five to seven available channels, controlled by the major networks and studios. The majority of America (that had televisions) watched the same shows, because that was essentially the only thing on.
Fame and celebrity is not a new concept or one restricted to the United States, but for many years fame was based in part on some accomplishment or even infamy. You only made the newspaper because you did something newsworthy. Television and film extended the notion of fame to perceived talent to act, entertain or attractiveness.
Today, we are well beyond superficiality as the litmus test for popularity and fame. The Internet and Social Media have made it so that we have thousands of people who are famous for no other reason than they are famous.
People crave celebrity. They want it personally or the want to be immersed in the information, access and lifestyle of others who have it. You do not have to have any particular type of talent or skill set to achieve celebrity today.
I do not know exactly what it says about our society today when a greater majority of people in the United States today can tell you the characters of Bravo’s various “Real Housewives” casts or VH1’s Love & Hip Hop, but could not tell you who the Chancellor of Germany is or the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Too far from home… how about Canada’s Prime Minister or Mexico’s President. I know still too much of a reach…how about the Congressman or woman in your own district…or even the mayor…?
We know and follow people who have no relevant impact on our substantive lives, and vastly ignore the people who are creating and enacting policies that directly have an effect on us. I am not saying that people who entertain us do not have a value. Heaven knows we need an escape from the world and issues around us. I am just saying that societally, we are placing too much of a premium on the superficiality of fame and celebrity and not on substance.
There are many brilliant people in the world today. However, if they aren’t famous or on television regularly, we do not care. Okay, not care may be a little strong, but we are definitely not hearing them if they are not on or have a high profile platform.
The United States has just elected a president, in large part because he was famous. His successful national reality television show “The Apprentice” was largely responsible in making him a household name throughout America and casting him in a well crafted manner to look as a no-nonsense, successful executive… the exact image a person that has never held any type of public office would want the American people to perceive him as if thinking of one day running for office.
It is undeniable that people with fame and celebrity have a platform. That platform of course is mostly used to monetize and for personal gains. More followers and more fame means more relevancy and in turn more money. I can’t knock that hustle.What I do have issue with is the credibility that we give to fame beyond just entertainment purposes.
Whether you think Kanye West is a genius because he has said so many times or because you like his music, how does that correlate to believe that he has something relevant to say beyond talking about auto tune techniques and himself. Yet, as crazy as the idea of reality show star Donald Trump becoming president, how much less crazy is the idea of another nonsensical, egomaniacal ranting celebrity with over 25 million twitter followers running for president in 2020?
Unfortunately Trump’s victory proved in part what many of us were already beginning to know, substance, fact and reason can be trumped by Celebrity. We are part of a generation that worships celebrity. We give too much credibility and energy to those that have achieved fame. The advent of new technology only seems to dictate that more and more people will continue to achieve fame for no other reason than multi-media platforms need content and anything and everything is available for exploitation.
These truly are interesting times in which we live.
If you enjoyed this piece, please read, “My Fake Interview With Kanye West” and others within diaryofamadmind.com
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