SPidge Tales

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Becoming Famous? No, It Ain't Worth It

MTV has a TV show called Real World/Road Rules Challenge. It is a competition between former cast members of the reality TV series’ Real World and Road Rules. A show like this exists solely because Real World-ers and other reality “stars” cannot let go of their fifteen minutes of fame. After finding out that reality TV does not turn participants into real celebrities, they latch onto any D or F List event, failing to see obscurity as a more attractive option than fame.

Yes, it is better not to be famous. We live in a narcissistic culture that tells us fame and renown are around the corner. Worse, unlike in the old days (the 1990’s), when you actually had to work hard (Bill Gates; Warren Buffett) or have a special world class talent (pro athletes; movie stars; rock stars) to become rich and famous, nowadays reality TV and the Internet give us the illusion that celebrity is in the grasp of Every Man. People really believe they can become famous by applying to be on Real World and Survivor.[1] People really believe they can become famous by posting YouTube Videos and writing blogs.[2] Even Time Magazine bought into this fad by naming YOU as person of the year, complete with a mirror shaped like a computer screen on the cover.

Reality TV stars are like those weird kids you knew in high school who did things like color their hair purple. They feared not getting any attention, and believed that bad attention is worse than not getting noticed at all. Instead of being unique or special, they blended in with the other outcasts. Even though they had attention, they still didn’t fit in with the cool kids. What they didn’t realize is that being cool is just something you are or you aren’t; unless you are a hot chick in a movie who people can’t tell is hot because she wears glasses and a ponytail, then suddenly lets her hair down and ditches the glasses, you cannot go from being uncool to cool. It just doesn’t happen. Reality TV stars get the same shunning from real famous people. The Real World is not a ticket into the Hollywood inner circle. You need to be famous because of that elusive quality known as “cool;” it can’t come from whoring yourself out to the reality TV executives or coloring your hair purple, depending on whether 15 minutes of fame or high school attention is your goal.

But what about real fame? Isn’t that worth it? Isn’t it worth becoming famous for being a good baseball player or great actress? There are benefits. On a personal level, riches and fame would allow me to wipe out my college loans in one fell swoop. I would take pictures of myself with all the hot babes who throw themselves at me, then mail them to all to all the girls who rejected me and stuck me in the Friend Zone. But, still, this wouldn’t bring happiness. It would just make me a token of whatever it is I’m famous for. Think of the famous people you’ve heard of. George W. Bush is, to the world, President of the United States. And that’s pretty much it. Lebron James is a star basketball player. Simon Cowell is that guy who puts people down on American Idol. Fame transforms you from a well rounded person into a Wikipedia entry.

How many people know me? Know of me? Hundreds, maybe a few thousand. Who am I? I am a son, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, someone who makes you laugh, someone who is shy, but funny when he opens up. Let’s say I randomly got picked to be on Real World; I would become: Sean Pidgeon, contestant on Real World. I would be a stub on Wikipedia. And this would change me not just to the world, but to the people who actually know me. When someone I know mentions me, she (or he) won’t say, “oh yeah, Sean Pidgeon! He was my camp counselor/teacher/I went to college with him/I worked with him. He made me laugh/we had a lot of fun on that Montreal trip/ you really need to meet this guy/you would love him!” Instead, she will say, “oh yeah, Sean Pidgeon. He’s the guy who flew to the moon with NASA/starred in that Oscar winning movie/played in the NFL. I knew him when he was in college/worked with me in the summer/went to kindergarten with him.” And it would be worse being famous or semi-famous for failure, such as being an NBA benchwarmer or a career minor leaguer or a disgraced politician. Then people would point to an innocuous past event, such as the time you got in trouble for gym class, for a “sign” that you had your failure coming all along.

Leave the reality shows for those kids who color their hair purple. Leave the authentic fame of politicians, movie stars, and sports heroes to the originally cool kids. “Cool” is too much responsibility anyway. Enjoy being anonymous to the world. You are the world already to those you love.

[1] I do not include American Idol in my critique. For one, I really do enjoy AI. And it is a proven talent agency. Singers there do become stars. AI is not, in my opinion, the latest reality fad, but rather harkens back to the old days of variety (think Ed Sullivan Show, or for the younger crowd like me, Ed McMahon’s Star Search).
[2] To be completely honest, I would probably have to include myself.


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