The tainting of celebrity

In the mid 40s to early 60s it was pretty much a certainty that when the word celebrity popped up into your head; instantly your mind went down a tangent involving the extremely talented Hollywood stars of American Cinemas golden period. Waltzing into your psyche would have been the glamorous likes of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman. Marching into your consciousness were the imposing likes of Spencer Tracey, Gregory Peck and Cary Grant. Along with these names you would also add the splendour of film premiers, red carpets, movie posters and glamorous homes in Monte Carlo married to a prince added to the mix. However if you were to mention the same term to people today; instantly images of drunken romps in the Big Brother house, lurid sexual antics in night clubs by the cast of the Geordie Shore, embarrassing stunts attracting millions of views on YouTube and unfortunate tales of child actors slowly destroying their lives would boil to the surface. My argument is that once celebrity instantly conjured up images of years of hard work involving revolving doors of elocution, dance and singing classes. Celebrity was once shrouded in an air of divine mystery, sophistication and dinners with important political figures. Now the perception of celebrity has been regulated to the realms of cheapness, stupid rants on Twitter and crotch shots.
My recent celebrity epiphany came as a result of watching two Sofia Coppola films that I felt greatly summed up celebrity and its effects in the 21st century. The first was a brilliant character study on the numbing effects of modern day celebrity called Somewhere. In it we follow Johnny an actor living from hotel room to hotel room, whilst emotionally and consciously withdrawn from all the various awards ceremonies and press junkets he is forced to do. His scenes on a whole are constantly filled with melancholy heart and cold wintery isolation as you begin to realize that Johnny is no longer a human being to the various assortments of producers and PR men, instead he is merely a product intended to be used and sold around the world. The second film was The Bling Ring, based on a true story of how a group of youths decide to rob the homes of rich celebrities to quench their own hunger for the expensive and glamorous existences that they envy so much. But when they do get caught instead of showing remorse, rather in the face of the world media they rejoice at their new found notoriety and 15 minutes of fame.
This sort of fame hungry mentality doesn’t just end in the Hollywood hills. I recently went to a club where I struck up a conversation with a fairly pretty petite young blonde. After talking to her for a while, it began to be virtually impossible to escape the black swirling cloud haloed around her head. Every other statement coming from her mouth was either a self deprecation comment obtaining from her lack of tan to the mundane nature of her job or an insults aimed at her ‘friend’ who was merely a few steps away. I tried steering the conversation into more positive light but asking her what her passion was. Without even a moment’s hesitation and accompanied with sprawling smile she said ‘I want to be famous’, naturally I felt it was a strange thing to say, but not entirely ridiculous. But what really struck me was when I asked what she wanted to be famous for; she replied that she had no discerning talents to speak of and no ambition to gain any but just wanted to be famous.
This desire for fame for fame’s sake has become a theme heavily ingrained in modern society. Why spend years studying acting with Stella Adler when all you really need now is; a spoon, video camera, internet connection and jar of cinnamon to instantly put your name on the lips of millions? Why go the majority of your career sleeping on friend’s sofas and working in bars to earn enough money to produce bad quality mix tapes, when you can simply sing a few Lady Gaga songs in front of four judges and win yourself a £1 million recording contract?
The reason I’m appealed at this tainting of the idea of Celebrity is because I feel it should something born from years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice and a love for your art. Then when you propel yourself to the very top of your profession you are duly rewarded with adulation, acclaim and wealth. Celebrity should always be something you earned and not just something you picked up in a buy one get one free sale at a supermarket.


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