FAME & Celebrity: Providing a Reliable Supply of Sensations

The quest for fame has always been a central motive for poets and artists; from David’s psalms and Aristophanes plays, the need to transcend has been as evident as the human ego. Celebrity, however, has always been the volatile,unpredictable and emotional consideration thrown into the mix… Blame it on the unknown. How important is celebrity and why is the desire for fame and glamour deemed so necessary? Our infatuation with Jersey Shore’s Snooki and her gang, and what will replace them merits some  consideration as social and cultural phenomenon since the nature of such fame reflects much about the society it mirrors.Renown simply doesn’t cut it. In a digital age, of Henry Jenkins, “If it doesn’t spread its dead”, the democratization of fame via media fragmentation has increased the pool of celebrity. Like an expansion draft in sports league, the talent has been diluted, but….. it may not be important, or of value in different ways than we might have originally perceived.

Harmon:From Chaucer’s early poem, “The House of Fame,” whose hero-poet wrestles with the fame bestowed on him by society and the Church’s emphasis on heavenly (rather than earthly) praise, to Martin Scorcese’s film King of Comedy, in which an amateur comedian jokes to a national television audience that it is “better to be king for a night, than schmuck for a lifetime!”—these celebrities and their works speak to us, even give voice to our own desires, as they reflect back to us the realities and illusions of today’s fame.http://www.iasc-culture.org/HHR_Archives/Celebrity/7.1LBibliography.pdf

“Celebrities of the twentieth and twenty-first century differ from all previous ones, as the lines between public and private, ordinary and famous, proper and improper have narrowed or even disappeared. While we once honored wealthy industrial elites, politicians,
inventors, and entrepreneurs whom we never hoped to meet, we now have celebrity daughters, celebrity criminals, and celebrity office assistants. As celebrity culture has been democratized and brought within reach of the ordinary citizen, so too the formation of our desires and expectations toward celebrity have changed.” ( Kristine Harmon)

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The exploitation of the rich and famous, glamor and the sizzle of the steak, the meat being virtual, is a very lucrative profession and an art form to appeal to what audiences think of themselves, for better, worse or some vague undefined fuzzy zone that floats in and around the general dynamic. Celebrities provide entertainment and diversion but they also satisfy a need for social cohesion, which may be the primary driver.  They are characters in a vast morality play,though what is being taught is something of an opened ended question, a content void that is insatiable, or so it seems.

Sarah Siddons. Thomas Gainsborough. Paul M. Barrett: Artists, composers, and, above all, actors gained recognition for the elevated diversions they offered. They were commoners whose private lives became intermingled with their public accomplishments. It did not go unnoticed among a new class of theatrical impresarios that scandal, especially sexual misdemeanors, enhanced a star's glamour quotient. Actress Sarah Siddons elicited audience tears for her stage performances in the 1770s. A friend of Queen Charlotte, she was rumored to be the mistress of not only a well-known painter but a fencing master, too. In a gesture familiar to devotees of Angelina Jolie and Madonna, Siddons received visitors while in the midst of what Inglis calls the "ostentatious mothering of her children": using her foot to rock the crib of one while holding another to her breast. Fans simultaneously adored and deplored her, a love-hate dynamic that still defines the culture of celebrity today.

Really? That sounds very selfless for a pop star.

Lady Gaga: It is selfless. But, you know, I am very lucky. I work very hard, but when God opens that door for you — when life opens that door for you, I should say — I think it’s important to be giving, to return the love back. I have a spiritual guide, not a therapist but someone who in my mind is connected with a higher being, and he helps me a lot.

What does he bring to the party?

What I like about him is that he doesn’t speak to me like I am a normal person. He understands that I have an eccentric way of life and personality. And he also understands that I am famous, and I appreciate that. He tells me that I no longer serve my life in the normal way that people serve their life, that I must serve the greater good in my service to the universe. And for me, it’s my fans. I only serve my fans.

"Paris exported versatile celebrities, such as the stylish Sarah Bernhardt. Improved transatlantic transportation allowed the trend-setting performer to tour America frequently. In New York she stopped traffic. "She travelled crazily, accompanied by her pet lynx, alligator,and python." Public and private merged. "I've alw

acted," Bernhardt wrote. "I never stop. ... I am my own double." -Barrett

Fame, generally, is the immortality of the artist in his or her work; like a Mozart or Shakespeare who are known in and through their work to many generations.Celebrity, well, its a central motive, an immediate fame based squarely on the present, and in a Warhol sense, a democratic allotment or entitlement of a quarter hour of spotlight. The dead poet and artist often achieves a greater fame than the living version who created it whereas the dead celebrity is often an archetype quickly interred and exhumed into a newer version of the product. Certainly, cases like Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe are more nuanced: in the case of Wilde a celebrity and avant gardist in terms of managing a public persona. In both, their importance was as much a matter of their tragic and symbolic lives where fame may have been an extension of celebrity and vice-versa. But their deals were sealed through talent, in spite of their notoriety.

In the present moment, celebrity, as fleeting and illusory as it appears, does represent, and very powerfully, the – hope, faith, embodiment- of the potential of an open and accessible culture; the American dream where everyone knows someone who “made it”, thus keeping the flame in the Statue of Liberty burning. The expansion of celebrity culture is inextricably linked with market and commercial interests. Clever public spinners like Edward Bernays cleary realized the importance of a celebrity industry as an effective means for the commodification of the self  and the inculcation of democratic sentiments no matter how synthetic they were.

Tabatha Southey:Humphrey Bogart's last words were reported to be, but probably weren't: “I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.” Oscar Wilde set the standard with, “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.” I've always imagined that Wilde held onto that line for a long time. I hope that the thought of using it when the day came brought him some joy during the nightmares he endured. Perhaps he even asked to be moved to a room with wallpaper beforehand. Wilde knew the value of his own great lines so well that if I were told that he looked at wallpaper samples for weeks, ordered the worst of them and then waited for the wallpaper to be delivered and hung before delivering that line and finally dying, I'd believe it.http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/tabatha-southey/go-to-the-light-so-you-can-write-my-last-words-down-correctly/article1843188/

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How do you think you are doing that with your fans?

Lady Gaga:I think I have changed the way they look at and devour fame. It’s something that tastes a little too sweet but is not so difficult to swallow.

You say you are an acute assessor of fame. You of all people must know, then, that celebrity is fleeting. Doesn’t that scare the bejesus out of you?

Not in the book of Gaga.


In the book of Gaga, fame is in your heart, fame is there to comfort you, to bring you self-confidence and worth whenever you need it. I want my fans to love themselves. It’s almost like I want to hypnotize them so when they hear my music they love themselves instantly.

Don’t you think it’s kind of creepy when you refer to yourself in the third person?

No. Not if you’re an artist, it’s not. I talk about myself in the third person all the time. I don’t live my life in the way someone like you does. I live my life completely serving only my work and my fans. And that way, I have to think about not what is best for my vagina but what is best for my fans and for me artistically.

An "elitisit" view? Barrett: How to explain Paris Hilton, Kate Gosselin, and Snooki? Historically, celebrity stirred conflicting emotions of adoration and jealousy. Does anyone admire the contemporary train wrecks, notorious for being self-destructively notorious? As Snooki's puzzled father observed, reality TV stars often have no discernible skill beyond getting wasted and throwing up. Now that everyone is the star of their own homemade YouTube video, their willingness to do so on camera too often explains the extent of their appeal.

One chief mechanism in the maintenance of celebrity status is the audience. Over time, fans have become more and more important, even in the organizing of a celebrity’s personal life. Once viewing fandom as delusional or even psychotic, scholarly work
on fans has in the last ten years approached fandom as a serious field of inquiry and claimed that fandom is a complex arena in which to study the relationship between fans, stars, entertainment texts, and the media industries. It is also here that one finds work that casts off the dominant-force theories seen above and returns a degree of power to the individual. Lewis and Harrington and Bielby
posit that fanship is both an activity and the active management of identity, while Ang, Jenkins, and Bacon-Smith look at the institutional and communal power exercised by fans…. ( Harmon )

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