One of the problems with today’s hyper-speed news cycle is that people barely get their full 15 minutes of fame anymore. One minute you’re surrounded by the paparazzo everywhere you go and before you know it – poof! – nobody cares about you anymore and you’re forced to rush out a bad memoir named after an X-Men character.
It sure seems like it’s gotten easier to get famous nowadays (thanks to more celebrity-based media and reality TV) but it’s much harder to stay famous. Worst of all, the truly talented people are getting lumped in with the general riff-raff (e.g. Jon & Kate) that are inexplicably clogging up our trashy magazines, website and TV shows.
In the future, if we want to keep evolving as a celebrity-obsessed culture, I think we’re going to need to create a new level of categorization somewhere between “celebrity” and “nobody.”
Now, you might be thinking, “isn’t that what the D-List is for?” And the answer is no. The D-List is for people that earned their way to celebrity-hood but didn’t have enough talent to stay famous or relevant. But that doesn’t take away from their initial accomplishments. For example, Corey (Feldman) & Corey (Haim) at their worst are still more culturally important than Octomom at her best. The D-List is still a part of the list and you need talent to get on the list in the first place.
Personally, I’d like to use the term “infamous” but that implies being known for negative reasons and most modern reality stars are more tedious than negative. Plus, killing sprees involve a lot of messy work, so “infamous” probably needs to be reserved for serial killers. Just like middle name usage.
So, unless you have a better suggestion, I’m going with “lamous.” Basically, we replace the term “fame” with “lame” in all of its uses to make it clear that this person is known, but they’re not famous. They’re lamous.
So that solves our first problem of separating the famous from the lamous and the celebrities from the celamebrities. But how can genuinely talented people stay famous in this unpredictable media era?
My theory is that many creative people get famous for being themselves. Their first book, album or TV show is original and authentic and society embraces them for being slightly more talented versions of regular people. But then they can’t sustain their fame because being famous changes them and takes away what we liked about them in the first place.
This happens on Food TV all the time. Someone like Rachael Ray is initially appealing precisely because she’s goofy and unpolished. Then she hits it big, becomes a “personality” and loses all of the goofiness that we found appealing in the first place. Look at Guy Fieri. I’m sure he’s a nice guy but they turned him into a caricature of himself with the stupid backward sunglasses and the sweat band and the ridiculous shirts and hair. When he was just a regular schlub and he dressed like that he looked fine. Now he looks like a douche. Plus, that dude will literally eat garbage. No one likes a celebrity that eats garbage.
Many, but not all, musicians suffer from the sophomore slump. People think that the sophomore slump is a result of the artist having run out of good material. But I don’t think it’s the absence of quality material. I think it’s that their environment has changed. They went from being poor, unknown chumps to being stars. You can’t write about everyday life and relate to regular people when you’re taking private planes everywhere and partying with Verne Troyer.
The simple answer seems to be to “keep it real.” But that’s unrealistic advice. Nobody is going to live in a shitty apartment or eat Ramen noodles just to keep it real. That’s not authentic, either.
Nope, the key to staying famous is to never relate to regular people in the first place. By definition, you can’t lose touch with people that you were never in touch with in the first place. That’s what makes celebrities like Madonna (or her modern-day knock-off Lady Gaga) so compelling, even though their music is awful. They don’t seem like real people. They don’t look like they were ever kids or not-famous. They appear as if they were birthed fully-formed as celebrities, like Athena from Zeus’s head.
(My apologies for that burst of pomposity.)
If you have talent and want to sustain a long career of fame, don’t be a regular person that hits it big – people will get bored with that. Be a famous person that occasionally treats the commoners to a glimpse of greatness.
If you don’t have talent, but you want to be well-known, please feel free to go on a reality TV show or a multi-state killing spree. But be forewarned, you’ll never be a real celebrity and we might use your middle name.