Celebrity In America, Sojourns Into Meaninglessness

Time for a old man rant.  I haven’t had one in a while and I’m feeling one bubbling just beneath the surface.

I grew up in a time when the term “Celebrity” meant much more than it does today.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines celebrity as “a famous or celebrated person“, but in my mind, bestowing the mantle of celebrity status on an individual also requires that they have achieved a high level of notoriety due to the significant individual accomplishments and contributions which are associated with them.
When I was just a pup, celebrities included people like John Wayne, undoubtably an American icon; Frank Sinatra, with a career spanning several decades; Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Hillary, Pablo Picasso, Jesse Owens, Winston Churchill, Jackie Robinson, and the list goes on and on.

Perhaps driven by Andy Warhol’s famous statement, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes” our culture, aided and abetted by media talking heads who are desperate to achieve their own notoriety, now grants celebrity status to the undeserving as fast as McDonald’s churns out Big Macs.

By the way, based on little more than that quote, a collection of really horrendous wigs, and a can Campbell’s soup, Warhol managed to achieve his own level of transient renown.
A quick review of a list of current “celebrities” including such notables as, Kim Kardashian, Michael Sorrentino (who?), Lindsay Lohan, Daniel Tosh, Snooki, Heidi Montag, Clay Aiken, and Pitbull; clearly demonstrates that the criteria for achieving celebrity status today requires little more than a willingness to engage in outrageous behavior, to embed large quantities of silicone in one’s body, to practice narcissism as if it were an art form, and/or to have “starred” on one of the innumerable reality television shows which plague our cable channels.

Pardon me, but I have to ask, is there anyone who has done less to achieve the designation of celebrity than Pitbull?  Appearing on Budweiser beer commercials while rhythmically thrusting one’s right arm into the air doesn’t seem like much of a resume’ to me.  But I digress.

No doubt, many of this generation of celebrities will soon be appearing on the Biography Channel’s “Celebrity Ghost Stories” series.  Why wraiths, specters, and poltergeists would choose to initiate contact with so many once notable personages just as their careers seem to be coming to an end is an interesting phenomena.  Perhaps it’s closer to the truth to suspect that the series provides an opportunity for these latter day Norma Desmond’s to see themselves on the tube one last time?
You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.

I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.

Yeah, right.


7 thoughts on “Celebrity In America, Sojourns Into Meaninglessness

  1. Very true. On the bright side we still do have many, many people among us worthy of great respect and love. Most of those people are not known by so many people–in truth the majority of them shun the limelight, preferring to work away offering up that precious gift of self. Service people, volunteers, professionals, friends and family: they are the people I adore :>)

  2. A Norma Desmond reference!!!?? You are my hero. What was the movie?? Sunset Blvd.? And who was the actor narrating the movie while floating dead in the pool? William Holden? Was the silent film goddess Gloria Swanson the lead as Norma? I LOVED that movie and damn I’m old!!! It was already a classic in 1964 when I first saw it. I think there were eleven academy award nominations for that one. Almost as good as Hangover II.

      • Lest we forget, this movie was shot long before the invention of under water photography so figure out how they got that opening shot! I had nightmares for a month about Norma Desmond! Gloria Swanson nailed her!! When I was a wee child my aunt used to watch the Mike Douglas show in the afternoons in Cleveland. Gloria was a regular guest….retired by then but still adored. She was charming and Mike Douglas lover her. (A Norma Desmond reference…still impressed!)

  3. Preach it OP! I’ve also often wondered what constituted the status of ‘Stars’, as in, “Dancing with the…”, “Skating with the…”, or “Dallas…”. It seems to be a pretty broad definition.

Feel Free to Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s