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Monday, October 19, 2009

Famous for Being Famous

Andy Warhol once famously said,

One day everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame.


I've always wondered if Warhol meant that as a complimentary comment on society or a critical one. Warhol didn't live during the era of reality tv, You Tube, twitter, blogs, and Facebook. I suspect he imagined something like all these though when he imagined a world where everyone vied to get their moment in the sun.

I have a friend that hates reality tv so much that he once turned off Saturday Night Live because they did a skit satirizing a reality tv show. I tried to tell him that in essence SNL was agreeing with his own disdain for the television niche. His disdain, however, is so extreme that there's no reasoning. He refuses to see any movie with Jennifer Hudson because she first came on the scene on Fox's American Idol , which he considers reality tv. Now, most people aren't quite as militant as my friend in their disdain for reality television however he firmly believes that reality television has coarsened and cheapened society.

That brings us to the now infamous Heene family. Their tale riveted America as a UFO type object flew over the Colorado skies for several hours while many believed their six year old son was inside. Now, we are lead to believe that all of it wasn't merely a hoax but a well prepared hoax.

The hoax, it appears, was designed to take advantage of our 24/7 cable media culture. It was designed to take advantage of a culture that gets caught up in the drama of reality. I must confess that I wasn't at home while all of this transpired and so I never understood why the media treated all of this as such a big deal. The drama of a flying saucer with a little boy presumably inside captured Americans. People readily admit that they became "emotionally involved".

What was the end game here? The end game was to trade on the fifteen minutes of fame that this would create into more than fifteen minutes. We have turned into a society in which people are truly famous for being famous. There are people who count as their profession "reality tv star". There is absolutely no prerequisite for being a reality tv star. The only end game here was to create enough publicity that the public would become emotionally attached to the family so that people would be intrigued by a reality tv show.

That certainly devious but it's devious in its use of our culture. What does it say about our culture when you examine such a devious plan and see its wisdom. Had they not been caught, does anyone doubt that this plan would eventually work? It's what the so called octomom did and she didn't even really hide it. Reality tv has turned our culture into one in which everyone struggles to get noticed and then uses that fame to create more fame. Soon enough, they become famous for being famous. The Heene's merely took this to the extreme. That shouldn't excuse what they did but rather examine what they tried to manipulate to do it.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Time Magazine should repeal its decision to make YouTube Person of the Year a few years ago?

mike volpe said...

I disagree. You Tube is transformative. It's created an entirely new media. The namesake for the Nobel Peace Prize created it because he invented dynamite. He was so distraught by the devious uses for dynamite that he tried to give back and the prize is just one way. It wasn't his fault that dynamite was used for bad often though. he created a device with plenty of good uses. The same is true of you tube.

mike volpe said...

I disagree. You Tube is transformative. It's created an entirely new media. The namesake for the Nobel Peace Prize created it because he invented dynamite. He was so distraught by the devious uses for dynamite that he tried to give back and the prize is just one way. It wasn't his fault that dynamite was used for bad often though. he created a device with plenty of good uses. The same is true of you tube.