Saturday, February 24, 2007

Famous for Being Famous--Why?

I was really surprised yesterday when I was driving between schools and listening to the top-of-the-hour network news on the radio, and the second story was about Britney Spears checking into rehab for the second time in a week. Of all the things going on in the world these days, I fail to see how this story merited more than a brief mention at the end of the newscast (and even then, only for the reason that it's fairly unique to have someone leave and return to rehab in such a short span of time).

I just don't get the whole idea of obsession with celebrities--especially those who don't really have all that much talent to begin with. The only time I've ever read a People magazine was in the waiting room at the doctor's office or the car repair place, and was only if I was finished with my newspaper and there wasn't a copy of Sports Illustrated handy. I'm especially surprised to see so much ink, bandwidth and airtime devoted to people who are mostly "famous for being famous" (Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith, K-Fed, etc.). Sure, it was sad when Anna Nicole passed away at such a young age, especially after just having lost her son and giving birth to a baby in short order. I won't argue that her story deserved a place in the hourly newscast, but breaking in as a special report? Don't we save that for things like huge natural disasters, the passing of former presidents, and things like that?

I noticed that, in this morning's paper, an L.A. Times columnist agrees with me. Here's a key quote:
Not so long ago, you had to make a pretty strenuous effort to become well-known enough to register as famous. However, because that playing field was relatively small, once you got there it wasn't too hard to become a household name – if only for the allotted 15 minutes.

Now I'm not sure there's such a thing as a household name anymore. Instead of 15 minutes of fame, we get personalities who are famous in the eyes of maybe 15 people. Fame is no longer about reaching the masses but about finding a niche audience somewhere.

This can, of course, be a good thing, since the masses never have been known for their taste or intelligence. But there's a dangerous flip side to the democratization of fame. The YouTube/American Idol/MySpace regime may be providing new opportunities for genuinely talented, less conventional people, but it's providing even more opportunities for untalented, often downright annoying people. "Celebrity" now connotes a mundanity that borders on tedium, not to mention that smelly territory of reverse indifference.
Read the whole thing. I admittedly don't have a personal stake in this at all; if I become famous, I hope it's for something I've done musically--something that's the product of hard work. I don't need to waste my time obsessing over the lives of strangers who may be famous for not having done much, but I wonder why anyone would consider this a good use of his or her time.

UPDATE: Eric links to his post on this subject from a year ago. Here's the key quote:
While I find humor in certain stupid things (ie, cheesy action flicks), I don't understand people acting stupid to get attention. Do I feel any better about myself when I hear Paris Hilton say something stupid? Nope, I just feel indifferent. I know someone somewhere feels better about his/her life as he/she vicariously lives through other people's stupidity.

Eww, part 1: Some inmates at the El Paso Country Jail annex were recently served noodles infested with weevils.

Eww, part 2: After the recent e. coli scare, Taco Bell sure didn't need the world to see the pictures of rats scurrying around one of its New York restaurants after-hours; the whole thing was caught by TV cameras.

Slightly less "eww," but some may beg to differ: A Humane Society investigation has uncovered evidence that some "fake fur" coats may actually include fur from dogs. Can you say Fi-D'oh!?


Eric Grubbs said...

My thoughts on this issue:

Kev said...

Eric--good post. And I'm glad to see that I was only a year behind you on this subject, LOL.

Eric Grubbs said...

Thanks man. I didn't realize I wrote that post a year ago. Man, time flies . . .