We live in an era of the mindset that EVERYBODY…or perhaps more accurately, ANYBODY can be a celebrity. Viewers and readers have an incessant jones for icons; media is the willing dealer. The old school staples of sports, film, tv, music, real life notoriety once pretty much ruled; someone attaining ‘stardom’ or ‘SUPERSTARDOM’ presumably possessed some traditional talent, manifested it in the universe and accompanied by good karma, they found recognition. They became SOMEBODY…for sometimes even more than fifteen minutes.
It’s 2003. Irony rules…and the Coliseum is filled with the mean-spirited. Viewers are ambivalent; they ALL covet recognition (knowing they have no worthiness)…yet have seen so many others – hungry, shameless, ruthless – who somehow parleyed THEIR ambition into a moment in the sun. So viewers continues to dream, to plot, to envy…and to CELEBRATE the comeuppance of pretenders busted in public. Reality television has seized on a cultural addiction and like the amoral business it is, gratefully catered to that addiction. In the process, some truly talented, truly opportunistic artists have broken from the pack.
Now lets not lose ALL sense of proportion; to aspire to a professional athletic career, you still need serious athletic chops (but a little showmanship doesn’t seem to hurt.) Anna Kornakova is a successfully serious hottie…but she first GOT our attention by playing some very fine tennis. But that’s sports. Like in the old days, a brilliant pianist is still recognized for his musicianship…but if he/she wants to sell CD’s and enjoy a major career, they’d either better be controversial, camera-friendly, lucky, and/or talented as all hell. It’s not really all THAT new; for some years we’ve recognized people who were famous, simply for being famous. They might have once had some talent, but the real cause for their celebrity was their success in self-promotion; they managed to become familiar to viewers and successfully marketed that familiarity.
Kids today have watched other kids on tv, seemingly very much like themselves, suddenly catapulted into media adoration, transformed to cultural icons. So these kids want THEIRS, they want THEIR 15 minutes, (THEY WANT THEIR MAYPO!) Lacking an ability to shoot three-pointers, do a triple lutz or write a hip-hop lament reflecting their ghetto or trailer trash anomIe, some have even chosen to commit brutal, sensational crimes…and guess what, many of THEM have achieved fame (a few posthumously.)