Saturday, January 2, 2010

In the future, everyone will have already been famous, and appear on a "Where Are They Now?" special

Andy Warhol once said, "In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Our perception of how that happens is often that the person did not exist before they became famous, and once they are no longer famous, they cease to exist.  Of course, we know in our heads that this is not true. Each of those people had some kind of growing up, and when the cameras are off, those people will go on leading whatever lives they did before, almost as if nobody ever saw them on TV.

If you perceive a glut of "Where Are They Now?" specials about former celebrities, this is because there is a glut of former celebrities.  These specials are often looked upon as yet another way that our obsessive media likes to get into the nooks and crannies of everyone's life. But another way to look at it is that it is an acknowledgement that, when we weren't looking, the former celebrity continued to live whatever life they had before. They did not cease to exist simply because the nation was not watching them.

This does not quite complete the task of making celebrities human, though. The thinking becomes "people become human when they are no longer celebrities." Or to paraphrase the Red Queen, "Human tomorrow and human yesterday, but never human today."

In John Hodgman's "More Information Than You Require," he has a few stories about being a "famous minor television personality," and to hear him tell it, his niche fame yields situations that are more bizarre than they are annoying. At an event, he is approached by a large black man who compliments him on how much he admires Hodgman's work. After a few moments, Hodgman realizes that he is standing in front of Chuck D, a man for whom he shares mutual admiration.

On one occasion, when he goes into an Apple store, someone recognizes him, and then suddenly the whole store is freaking out. On a different occasion, when he goes into an Apple store, not even the cashier handling his credit card realizes who is in front of him.

So, if you ever become famous, try to make sure that it's niche fame where the only people who recognize you are your actual fans. I think that's the lesson here. I'm not entirely sure.

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