Friday, March 30, 2007


Fame Junkies

I finished reading a book by Jake Halpern called Fame Junkies. The book discusses the psychological underpinnings of why we are so attracted to celebrities. Jake researched ideas about para-social relationships (relationships held from afar) as well as looking at how primates behave in hierarchies. Turns out that male monkeys (rhesus macaques) are more interested in watching dominant males and the back sides of female monkeys than in looking at non-dominant males and the front sides of females. What does THAT say about the men in our species and their tendency to focus on the physical attributes of women? Should we bother worrying about what our butts look like? As for watching the dominant male monkeys, those who could keep track of the Big Cahuna could get in his good graces, thus ensuring survival - or they could avoid his bad moods, thus ensuring survival. Here we are, all a bunch of monkeys, acting out some biological imperative with celebrity worship. Only Jake indicates that our fascination with celebrities has gotten much worse, more out of hand. I was especially saddened by the chapter devoted to young people who attend talent schools in hopes of becoming famous. What a treadmill.

I'm interested in fame, as is evidenced by my Manifesto of Fame and my Squidoo lens on the topic, yet it feels like more of an academic interest. (I think that there will be more people taking an academic interest in fame as celebrity worship is on the rise.) Jake is quite forthcoming about the fact that when one studies fame, one is in danger of succumbing to the attention and glory of it all. What I'm wondering, that the book didn't discuss, is how does one get enough renown (fame is too strong here) to be able to survive on one's creative work? We don't all want to be Vincent VanGogh and die penniless and mad. How does one get a solid respect for her work, yet still maintain a sense of privacy and a solid personal life? How does one remain connected to those who support the work, are fans of the work, but avoid the overboard fan behavior?

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