how can anyone this beautiful be a problem?
Love this! Delicious, especially because I have no idea who Cardi B., Jenny McCarthy and Peter Davidson are. I'm not even going to look them up, because I'm just the old lady down the street. Celebrity has probably been A Thing since humankind began. I hear your question as, has it always been (as) Toxic, or (as) devoid of Meaning? We've all heard of Christ, Plato and Dickens. Even so, our best question now for all their fans might be, "Really?"
The intensity of passion for celebrities was a LOT higher in bygone eras: Beatlemania, Elvis, marquee leading men (and women). That Farrah Fawcett poster. There was drool and fainting. Taylor Swift is a throwback to the days when studio publicists drummed up interest around celebrities' love lives. If anything, celebrities have become more banal - although people spend more time watching them because of social media. A worse problem is the "celebretizing" of policy agitators and politicians. Greta Thumberg (who deserves no-one's attention, much less magazine covers). AOC's dress-up day at the Met Gala (which technically violates campaign finance rules, but wow, that shade of lipstick), or Fauci, the self-proclaimed avatar for science. Elon Musk. And the nth degree, Trump. The expression in DC is that politics is Hollywood for ugly people. But those ugly people, because they do actually hold the levers of power, can be a lot more destructive than cheekbones in a Brioni suit.
Was it Andy Warhol who predicted we would all have our 15 minutes of fame? And Tik Tok is the accelerant for so many more of us getting at least 2 minutes of fame? How many fam-ous things can we take in?
Thank you Grant for getting us to think about culture in the context of celebrity (celebritIES)! In Dickens' day who were the celebrities? And were they global (she asks rhetorically because how could they have been?) It is a tangent for sure. But you made me want to find out.
Grant, I`ve been enjoying the articles. Thank you.
Regarding the influence of celebrities, you use several examples to illustrate how celebrities have been shaping culture. Books, perfume, politics. I can`t help but think of innumerous similar examples from the pre-digital era. It seems to me that digital media is the main culprit for what you`re getting to. Or, maybe the differences aren't so great, and depending on how you consider demographics, there`s some cultural proportionality between new celebrities and old celebrities. Perhaps how we define celebrities is also something worth considering when comparing ancient (or ancient-minded) intellectuals with Tiktokers.
I understand the approach here is meant to be broad, and do appreciate the insights.