Pop culture as a religion of poses, mimicking the empty religion that has normatively been disseminated to the common denominator. The counter empty gesture harking back to the pre-religious paganism, the sense of wonder in the grove at Alba and the hustle and tussle over the Golden Bough. The creative destruction of capitalism, our trade-off with the disconnect and dissolving of the always ambiguous social solidarity, community fibre and other moral pretenses to the dust heap requires some form of imagery to connect the various fragmented pieces that attempt to glue together that fragile entity known as identity. Celebrities are such a spiritual response to image reproduction; these mass produced, almost generic categorizable faces disseminated for the pleasure of our communal lives. It appears to be the most significant way we understand the world, perhaps the result of the loneliness and isolation that our particular adopted brand of freedom has engendered.
Stephen Marche: To people who knew her, Marlene Dietrich was the living embodiment of a German hausfrau—completely lacking in glamor or even the desire for glamor. Those who saw her only on the screen worshipped her transcendental beauty; she just wanted a quiet cup of tea. Greta Garbo was the first movie star intelligent enough to run away from the cameras, and her flight only increased her celebrity. The basis of our intimacy with celebrity is exactly their retreating when we try to see them. Their very resistance is why we can’t stop looking. “Who are these people really?” is the question that we can’t answer but can’t stop asking. The icon retreats behind the screen. Smoke and mirrors hide the fire and reflection. None of the romantic poets lived “in society”; none were associated with London or New York; they all had to flee either to the Lake District or the Continent. Walt Whitman could stay in the city when he was unknown, writing and self-publishing Leaves of Grass, but by the time he became a true celebrity—and he lived into the era when he actually received the title—he had moved to the country.
… In the twentieth century, aristocracy by image emerged from aristocracy by talent. The invention of film took the magic of brand-name people and gave it world dominance. Film is celebrity, a something-nothing, a cloudy and vague gloss over reality. The earliest audiences were entranced not by the plots of her films but by Greta Garbo’s face, maybe the purest form of ecstasy the modern world has produced. The experience is both plural and singular, the transmission of an image that spreads everywhere but seems directed at each individual viewer. The illusion of mass intimacy changes celebrities into works of art felt so deeply that they are no longer art—Greta Garbo becomes more interesting than any movie in which her face appears.
…The rise of more intense, and briefer, celebrity over the past century is a side effect of the movement from silent film to the camera phone. Andy Warhol’s dictum that everyone in the future will have fifteen minutes of fame was probably overstating the duration. Viral videos have given the briefest, most superficial fame to a boy doing light-saber tricks, a man attempting to knock down the Oasis frontman, a baby laughing maniacally for a couple of minutes.
…Within the maelstrom of image, however, certain celebrity types return to the public consciousness again and again. Gwyneth Paltrow is not just Gwyneth. Without Greta Garbo, there is no Grace Kelly; without Grace Kelly, there is no Gwyneth. The power of this particular trope—the blond princess—is huge; Great Garbo was the most charismatic actress in history. Avenue Princess Grace in Monaco is the most expensive stretch of real estate in the world, over twice the per-square-foot value of an average Fifth Avenue apartment. Each manifestation of the Gwyneth/Grace/Garbo figure wears the skin of the previous manifestation. For women, along with the blond princess, we have the blond whore (Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna), the exotic (Sophia Loren, Penélope Cruz), the independent (Katherine Hepburn, Barbara Streisand, Ellen Burstyn)…
…Among men, the tough guy, the consummate gentleman, the upstanding fellow, the outsider, the shlub, the permanent child, the destroyed adolescent, the man who consumes himself to death, have all been constantly reinvented. As in any other form of polytheism, gods appear and disappear, built to fit time and occasion and place. No matter what social change is under way on the playing field of history, the gods above remain; they hover over the changing world without moving. There has always been a James Dean, there will always be a James Dean…. Read More:http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/essays/consumer-products.php?page=all