One of my favorite scenes in “Singin’ in the Rain” is one in which leading man Don Lockwood confronts Kathy Selden over her alleged lack of interest in him as an actor. At first she denies knowing anything about him, citing a total lack of interest in anything to do with the film arts, with the theatrical arts being the supposedly superior art form. She soon comes to admit that she has seen all of his films and has read all of the magazines in which he is portrayed. To think, if this film were to take place today, how much more information she would be able to access about her favorite film star.
Perhaps I am stretching the truth a bit, but it seems like there is a new magazine covering celebrity “news” and gossip, each one proclaiming to have more new and updated news that the other magazines somehow manage not to cover. Then, if you turn on the television, one can practically find entire channels dedicated to celebrity news – even formerly all music video channels such as VH1 now feature celebrity programming. Then we have everyone’s favorite information resource, the internet. A simple search for “celebrity gossip” on a well known search engine yielded nearly eighteen million resulting different web pages – surely with many more on the way.
The negative consequences of this explosion of information are manyfold. To start with, there is an expanse in the already great chasm that exists between the everyday normal lives of the average proletariat, and the seemingly sublime and mysteriously magical world that the celebrities appear to live in. It is this very chasm that makes people excited to see new photographs of the celebrities in magazines and online, to view video footage of their favorite movie actress doing the most painfully mundane thing – would you believe that she makes twenty million dollars per film and yet drinks the very same coffee drinks that we do?
One would be led to think that by reading all sorts of information about their celebrity idols, there is a sort of connection being forged to said celebrity but the opposite is the case. Take your very best friend, for example. Is he or she your best friend because you have memorized their favorite restaurant and dozens of other trivial bits of knowledge? Rather, your best friend is that close to you because of an emotional bond that you have formed with them. You may have already forgotten that they have seen Dances with Wolves twelve times a year for the last five years (as a strange sort of a ritual) but that doesn’t distance you from them. By the same token, memorizing pages and pages of information about a person that you see in films will not make you closer to the person any more than memorizing Ichiro Suzuki’s various baseball statistics making you his closest friend.
Adding Injury to Insult
Car accidents. Semi-drunken punchouts. Babies being mishandled. When the Beatles were being photographed by the press, did anyone ever rear-end their car trying to avoid a photographer? The desperation to get the exclusive photograph, or to get an exclusive series of photographs at an event that no other celebrity source has access too is the sort of thing that led to the tragic demise of Princess Di in 1997. Despite widely spread rumors and conspiracy theories flying around, it is most likely entirely because of nine photographers chasing the Princess that her car was crashed and she ended up passing on from this world at the tender age of thirty-six. While it would seem absurd to suggest that she was murdered in any way, it is certainly a death that could have and should have been prevented.
Despite this tragic death nearly ten years ago, paparazzi (what would Federico Fellini have to see what we have done with his word since 1960?) continue to hound celebrities, causing more accidents and injuries every year. Just how many times has Lindsay Lohan gotten into car accidents trying to avoid being photographed? How many more people have to wreck their cars – how many more rude finger gestures must be displayed before the protocol of celebrity photography changes such that an actor doesn’t feel as though it is impossible for him to have a private life? And really, why is it so excruciatingly critical that we know just how many bags of potato chips a pop singer has bought?
What Creates A Celebrity?
In the widely panned 1998 film Celebrity there is a funny scene in which it is quipped, “You can tell a lot about a society by who it chooses to celebrate.” This seems even more pertinent today than it was eight years ago, when television programs such as Survivor The Real World were only just starting to sprout up. So-called reality television has created celebrities out of people who would otherwise never get any television exposure. People have but to make fools of themselves on television programs such as American Idol and suddenly find themselves with record contracts, appearing in television commercials and making cameos on television sitcoms.
The very existence of these faux celebrities, the worst of which were created by the horrendous program Laguna Beach, only serves to create more opportunities for information and gossip to be created. What exactly is the reason to celebrate people with immeasurable wealth (not earned but inherited) living life “above the chaff” in California? For that matter, how could it be that people could come to have their own television program, their only claim to fame being that they were once married to a sports celebrity?
Had you searched the web for “Kelly Pickler” a year ago, how many results do you suppose you would have come up with? Google comes up with nearly 500,000 results as of today. Now try spelling her name correctly – it’s “Kellie”, not “Kelly” – close to 1.7 million search results. A nice singing voice, true, but worth of so much press, so quickly?
Long gone are the days when People reigned supreme at the newsstand, and we turned to John Tesh for all of our entertainment news. Gone too are the days of actors being able to go out in public while not under heavy disguise without being photographed. Sadly, the situation as described above is only going to get worse, at an increasingly accelerated pace, until something happens that will radically change it all.