The beast of celebrity
posted by Paul on 2/17/01
You see them on television, in print and with their faces plastered over bus shelters. They are celebrities. Revered, idolized and sometimes even mocked. To the media, they are vital. To the regular person, they are an annoyance, their inflated salaries and egos providing a painful reminder of how easy some have it.
It's a strange life being a celebrity. Some are born into the notoriety, ascending via name value, immense wealth and those all-important connections. Others have to work hard, starting at the bottom, plying their trade for next to nothing and striving to make an impression. Occasionally, the hard work will pay off: the no-name talent will soon be a " name " and media professionals will track their every move. But more often the " wannabes " languish in obscurity - deflated and angry.
The majority of people who make it have something extra. Not necessarily talent, but some nuance in their character which pushes them earlier, and further into public conciousness. To be successful in the entertainment business, you have to push, push, push. Most would-be thespians are ruthless and blood-thirsty. They don't care how they have to get there, or who they have to cross to reach the peak. Their main objective is to get there, and they'll do everything in their power to achieve that. Everything.
Exploitation plays a very large part in that. The producers exploit the stars for their own ends, and the stars ( or would-be stars ) exploit themselves just to be noticed. The casting couch can come into play. Many stars have to sleep their way to the top. Male and female. The very straight Clark Gable had to demean himself by sleeping with male casting directors, just so he could have a chance to audition. That's more common than you'd think. It's rare that up-and-coming talent don't have to impress with something other than their talent. It's even rarer that you get by just by doing that.
It's a combination of personal sacrifice, raw talent and luck.
It takes a certain mind-set to be a celebrity. Who wouldn't want to be lauded everywhere they go? Who doesn't desire the five-star treatment? Well, for celebrities, it's much more than that. It transcends financial gain. These people need to be the center of attention, they need to be loved and they crave attention. Take that away, and they have nothing.
But there's a new breed of celebrity coming to the fore: the micro-celeb. The micro-celeb not only doesn't have to work hard, he/she gets his/her fame instantly and easily. However, it very rarely endures. The micro-celeb will be famous for something relatively insignificant - something newsworthy, but nothing earth-shattering. He/she may have appeared on a " reality " TV show, where their larger-than-life ( read:annoying ) personality and/or weird charisma has made them a household name. Reality TV shows: where the layman becomes a celebrity just by being a televised layman.
Andy Warhol said everyone would enjoy fifteen minutes of fame. Contestants on the trendy reality shows enjoy about six weeks of temporary fame, but some of the more delusional entrants try to prolong that. Producers, in an attempt to appeal to the zeitgeist, will often offer these micro-celebs recording contracts, tv shows and maybe even movie roles. Of course, once the " next big thing " comes along, these micro-celebs are yesterday's news. But, by that stage, it doesn't really matter. They've tasted the wine of showbiz parties, sampled the celebrity lifestyle and relished their stay in the public eye. Usually.
For the enduring celebrity, the struggle can be tortuous and often fatal. That long road to the top; overcoming the obligatory obstacles; proving your instincts right, and the critics wrong. It's a push. Some celebrities are pushed into the spotlight by overbearing parents, others push themselves to the forefront, leaving a trail of jilted " friends " in their wake. They'll hire an agent, frequent the right parties, casually encounter the appropriate people and often be no more than a few yards from an enticing " media opportunity ".
And from there, the struggle only just begins. You may think, naturally, that being pampered, preened and the center of attention has no downside. But you'd be wrong. Celebrity poses its own dilemmas. One day you can walk down the street with nary a whisper, the next you're being bombarded by insidious paparazzi, pestered for autographs and bothered for photo opportunities. Say goodbye to freedom, and say hello to invasion of privacy. Say goodbye to the quiet family life, say hello to being tempted by the forbidden fruits. The lure of drugs and sex has been too irresistible for the majority, so fildelity and Hollywood very rarely share the same bed. Throw honesty in there, too. In fact, forget everything that is moral. Use, abuse and get ready to be treated like a piece of meat.
Just because you make movies or front your own popular TV show doesn't mean you can do only that, and expect to be left alone. You have responsibilities. And you're simply not allowed to be human - to show the cracks in your pseudo-perfect presenation. Celebritries go to great lengths to conceal the more unseemly aspects of their characters. Movies stars, in particular, have to conform to the more clean-living archetype. They have to be " normal ", they have to be hard-working and their PR agents work over-time to convey that their clients are just " ordinary people and only interested in the craft. " Yeah, sure. Rock stars, on the other hand, can survive on a cocktail of decadence, and that even helps bolster their rebellious appeal. But that's another burden. The mythical rock star is so over-hyped that he cannot be seen to be " tame ". These people have to be loud and brash, rude and obnoxious, and hard-living.
Don't even think about entering the non-pop world of music, if:
A) You're religious.
B) You're subdued.
C) You have morals.
It sickens me that these quasi-superiors are so revered. I've seen with my very own eyes the respect and vomit-inducing adulation that celebrities receive. You become a celebrity, and you're instantly " so hot ". I dare say that Brad Pitt wouldn't be considered anywhere near " world's sexiest man " status if he wasn't in the public eye. Sounds obvious, I know, but do you think Brad Pitt could get work as a model if he wasn't an actor? I have my doubts.
People, they're no different than you or I. They just have more money, better houses and the luxury of pretending to be someone else in front of the camera. The image is what's being sold.
Now, I'd like to present to you all a brief look at the most dubious of celebrities and how they achieved their precious " fame ".
Hollywood is a crazy world, and the entertainment industry is truly bizarre. To make it, you have to be ruthless and willing to take risks. You have to be primed for rejection, always one step ahead of the game. Are you willing to lose friends in the pursuit of recognition? Are you willing to sacrifice all your morals just to be treated like a king/queen? If so, why?
Celebrity is the poison apple. Tempting, but lethal. And who has really survived it?
James Dean - dead at an early age; Celebrity drove him over the edge.
Marilyn Monroe - A tragic death; a result of the perils of fame.
Elvis Presley - died on his toilet seat; the spotlight proved too bright.
The Fords, Nicholsons and Beattys are the exception, but even they have endured the pain of divorce. Separated from friends, separated from the ones they've loved. Who'd rather be socially happy than financially secure and revered?
I know my choice..