Sunday, December 25, 2005

Aaron vs. Celebrity
I saw an advertisement for FOX's upcoming "Skating with Celebrities" and no, it's not a spoof of "Dancing with Celebrities" (which in turn, is not a parody of anything, not intentionally, at least). And as the episode ended, I realized that I really didn't know any of the celebrities. Which begs the question: What constitutes a celebrity? Are you a star simply because you were once on Full House? It seems to me that there has to be more to it than that, otherwise there's probably just as many celebrities as there are ordinary people.

According to the dictionary (that little read source), you need to be a widely known person. Being a former anything disqualifies you, as you are currently nothing. That is, off the radar. Negligible. Absent. In fact, if we're tuning in to watch just out of disbelief that you are actually still alive, you are anti-celebrity. Next time, hire yourself some paparazzi (an ugly necessity to maintain that image), and stay in that artificially created spotlight. I mean, I was a child model (that is, I was in a single print advertisement); should I qualify? (The answer is: Yes. But that's another story.)

No, a celebrity is maintained by making the personal image synonymous with their work. That's why high-profile musicians have such high-profile stories. All the rappers have their feuds, all the teeny-boppers have their... well... their "teeny-boppers," and all the rock bands wear their hearts on their sleeves, chests, ass-checks... wherever the ink fits, really. Unless an actor throws a phone at someone every now and then, we tend to forget the films they've been it: the principle is, we have to be interested equally in the person and their work for them to become celebrity.

Now, I admire that one of the contestants is a rehabilitated drug-addict (that is, literally, a former child-actor). But his sad story is no different from that of Alonzo Bodden, who won (on an untelevised episode) the final Last Comic Standing. Nor that of some of the contestants on other reality TV shows. But are any of these people necessarily celebrities? I could pull some other names out of hat, friends of mine, and you'll either know them or not. What makes them a celebrity, rather than an actor, or a comic, &c, is whether you know them before I mention them. There's just too many people out there who have all performed at one point or another for them all to be celebrities. FOX needs to be honest about their schadenfraude-ing duties and just label this "Cheap Laughs."

Honestly though, we should just know people for their accomplishments, not for their status. Elvis is an iconic name, just like Jesus, but I really don't know the work of either. Should I call these people celebrities? And if I respect them just for the bankability of their name, isn't that far worse than honoring their legacies and messages? I know at least with the latter of those two icons, many people have forgotten the point because they've gotten wrapped up in the mythos, the "celebrity." Let's also think about these celebrities: they're all actors, media whores already. What about some Nobel laureates performing? What about John Ashbery?

We're lost in the pop-pop flash of the glitzy media. We want to quantify fame so that we can strive to achieve and own it, as if there were some logarithm we could perform to achieve it. And failing that, we want to laugh at those who had an opportunity for stardom, but lost it. In doing so, we inadvertently fall prey to the biggest paradox of them all: we can't see what happens to someone after their fifteen minutes are up without extending their fame. So we'll never get to see what happens when the fame falls away. And we'll go on chasing those celebrity ghosts, those people that never were or never deserved to be, from channel to channel, always indulging the hope that one day, that will be me (I mean . . . us).

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