Friday, August 19, 2011

The Celebrity Mask

As disinterested as I am in the lives of celebrities, the concept of celebrity itself had always fascinated me. It couldn't be farther from what I want for myself, but as a concept, it does intrigue me. And what I find interesting is the current fall of the celebrity that is in progress.

The Duke
The awe is disappearing. I saw a kid having a conversation with a major league pitcher during this year's All-Star game. He might have been talking to his cousin, Lou. The player was signing the ball and the kid was talking to him with little evident interest.

I couldn't help thinking back to old TV shows in which kids met celebrities: Bobby Brady calling the great quarterback Joe Namath "Mr. Namath" -- that kind of thing. It seems that is gone.

My dad has referred to his childhood -- to how the football players (American football) were (circa 1950) like knights -- their helmets covering them as they went to battle. He says the mystery was what made them awesome, to him. Now we watch them in the news and on commercials, cheating on their wives and sweating orange Gatorade, respectively.

Not good for the awe factor.

Another contributor to this is that we are all able to don our own celebrity masks, now. The technological gate has opened and exposed us all to the masses. We all get the airtime that was once reserved for the media elite.

When cell phones came out and they weighed sevent-five pounds, a guy talking on the phone in his car was an important dude -- no question. Well, we still are imprinted with that archetype. Did you ever see people strut and posture while they talk on their phones? They, too, are important and are able to display that importance to the world audience.

A kid sitting on the edge of his bed can play Dave Matthews covers for the world just by uploading a video. He might stink and maybe no one but his grandmom and his girlfried watch, but consider the celebrity mask donned. Or, he might get hits from around the world and come up with a big recording contract. You never know.

Look at me, writing for more than a hundred readers per day. Go figure. Whether I stink or whether I am a genius, technology has granted me an audience that Steinbeck, writing in his Californian loft, in his teens, was never guaranteed.

The Dope
People post on Facebook: "At the beach with my sweeeetieeeees." Who cares? Why, the adoring throngs, that's who. The thousand-plus friends that some teenagers have might care -- instant audience. The mask is donned.

It is no longer a matter of interest how Grace Kelly spent her vacation. We can now watch Suzie Shlemeil from Shamong, New Jersey, prancing about in the waves. Then people post compliments: "Soooo preeeeteyyy;" "Dayum, girl . . ." She is adored.

Good or bad? I don't know. Something in me hates the red-carpet prance of Oscar night. But another part of me laments the fact that we went from John Wayne and Sinatra to The Situation and Eminem.

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