Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fickle fame

Some recent news items have interestingly portrayed the fickle nature of American fame, and how shallow and vapid it is.  Interesting to watch in progress.

One aspect of American fame is that the same things and personages that raise somebody to fame stand eager to rip them to shreds when they get there.  It'd be easy to say, and potentially correct as well, that having participated in the creation of their image, they are set up for a fall if they don't meet that expectation, but it's a little more than that in my view.

A recent example of that would involve the entire Josh Duggar saga. Now, readers of this blog, and there are darned few, know that I'm not a fan of the Duggars and never have been.  I always thought them a bit odd, or perhaps more than a bit odd, and I've chaffed at the occasional comments that they represent "conservative Christianity".  No they don't, if "conservative" Christianity is meant to include the millions of conservative Christians in the Catholic and Orthodox churches (the majority, fwiw, of Christians on earth), or those conservative Christians in numerous other denominations. No, the Duggars were interesting because they clearly belonged to something akin to a tiny sect, given their dress and lifestyle, and that provided part, but only part, of the fascination.  The remainder of the fascination was based on their just having a big family, something that wasn't unusual in the world until very recently.

Now, the Duggars traded on that fascination and turned it into a television career.  I have a problem with that, although I guess I can't fully blame them. But then, they were perfectly set up to be ripped apart when things went bad, and they did, in a bizarre fashion, mostly due to the icky behavior of Josh Duggar, who turns out to have lived a fairly hypocritical life.

The point isn't to defend him. Registering on a cheaters website is downright icky, in my view (and says a lot about how bizarrely dependant on technology we've become. . . do we need to register to cheat on spouses. . . seriously?).  No, it's just that the same media that made such a big deal out of them, is now ripping them down, and for conduct that it pretty much celebrates in other people (the cheating that is, not the other stuff).

Indeed, it's weird how fickle fame is.  If a public figure of the Duggars type, or a politician, cheats on his spouse, he's pretty much doomed.  Hollywood stars, on the other hand, get a pass and it'll just be passed off as some sort of tragedy for everyone, including the cheater.  Very fickle.

In contrast to this, we  have people who seemingly trade on their good public images for ongoing fame, as they convert their prior lives into one of trouble.  Fame is not only fickle, it's apparently addictive.

We've been given a potential example of that in the story of Bruce Jenner.  Jenner was originally famous for being an Olympic athlete.  Even at that time, fwiw, it seems to me that people speculated on him having same gender attractions, but that's another story.  Later, long after most athletes would be a thing of distant memory, he became famous again for being the second spouse of a family that's become seemingly fasmous for its female members being famous.  Or perhaps appearing on the cover of magazines with very little clothing on.  Now, he has announced as have a gender issue and he's becoming a woman, if a person can changed genders, which our DNA says we may not.

That's been celebrated and he's been announced as some species of hero.  In the meantime, he was involved with a fatal car wreck and will be charged with manslaughter, apparently.  That gets less press.  Odd.

It's particularly odd if we recall that Tiger Woods had a car accident that resulted in endless press attention, in part because he was . . . cheating on his spouse.  

Now, both are athletes, so why does Woods get the negative attention and Jenner does not.  I guess there's the cheating angle again, but Woods never set himself up as a public paragon of virtue (nor did he do the opposite).  Indeed, Woods is a Buddhist and therefore he certainly isn't a Duggaresque figure, although I'll confess I have no idea what the Buddhist position on monogamy is.

For another example, we have the weird story of the constant "look at me" displays by a certain female singer that rose up in the Disney child star factory.  I have problems with that entity in and of itself, but the displays, rather than the bold acts of individualism they're proclaimed to be, are more in the nature of childish spoiled brat displays.  Yet they are both fascinated and gawked at.  A similar meltdown, much less spectacular, has been given to at least one other female actress who ended up in constant trouble with the law, and while on a break from court displayed what she had in the Ossified Freak's journal.  Not so celebrated.  Yet another is just regarded as a pathetic meltdown.  Why is one celebrated and the other pitied?  Who knows.  Perhaps the difference is the degree to which the meltdown is genuine.

Speaking of the Ossified Freak, a young woman who rose to some level of fame as being one of the "girlfriends" of that fellow, which presumably entails certain conduct and to which other titles would have attached in a prior era, went on to marry some sort of athlete and convert that marriage into a television show. Why anyone would care about this sufficiently to watch it is hard to explain.  Following that, that fellow fell into some sort of scandal and now the same female figure is a character on a "boot camp" for troubled marriages.  I'd think that a television camera following you around in these circumstances would be troublesome in and of itself, but there you have it.  But here too, why do we care about this, and why does this sort of weirdness lend itself to a televised following? 

Indeed, that sort of public voyeurism may have been at least partially pioneered when it turned out that a really boring married couple, but one that included a former actress known for her portrayal of a girl in a California upper class high school, took that turn when it turned out that the husband was cheating on her.  He didn't get the Duggar treatment, as after all, he's an actor.  But from there on out there were endless episodes of the wife blubbering.  Heck, they both were cheating on other spouses when they started their relationship, so, D'oh!  But apparently not.  Anyhow, why would a person attempt to trade on that misery for fame?

Perhaps the most famous celebrity meltdown of recent years was the sad tale of Michael Jackson, who rose to fame on his music (which I never liked) but who spent his later years sort of freakishly altering himself.  Very odd and sad, but while the press noted his sad decline, the fame had clearly precipitated it.  So, he essentially was on display as a circus star the entire time. Very odd indeed.

No comments: