Thursday, August 18, 2011


I do not want to be misinterpreted or misunderstood. I have nothing against the cult of the celebrity.  I am merely amused.

I am amused by the all-too-much brouhaha given when a world famous celebrity visits our sacred shores and reaches the front pages of most broadsheets.  If these were tabloids or other periodicals sincerely and ultimately dedicated to the kind of news swapped over wet market stalls, then I would understand.   But to juxtapose the arrival of a celebrity with the frenzy of European stocks because of the troubles of the US Dollars or the most scandalous reports on newly discovered cases of local graft and corruption --- or, God forbid, investigations of a car bomb that killed officials in the southern island --- uh, that tends to be a bit surreal.

Is any celebrity who represents or embodies nothing political, artistic, social or even philosophical in significance worth the front page? 

Then one asks, "What the hell makes anybody famous nowadays?"  

In a world so crowded and bombarded with every available opportunity for media, fame has become an ambition in itself.  You don't have to do anything of real importance for mankind or even the trapped kitten on top of a tree to be famous. What is important is to be famous. Period.

Thus dissolves that thin line between admiration and infamy.  

More often than not, negative popularity is still considered media marketability: how does that statement go? Worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Some people would rather die than be ignored.
After all, nowadays ... it is fame (and not necessarily success although fame can be mistaken for success) that has become the international aphrodisiac.

OK, here and abroad, there are people who have made a career out of being talked about ... and would find every possible opportunity to be the object of attention of the public.  It seems that the planet has grown so small because of the accessibility of information that what is more important is to be in the consciousness of the public rather than the reason why people are thinking or talking about you. And to be the focus of media attention is hastily equated with adoration. Adoration nowadays spells business, money and all the trappings that may not save your soul but would make you look good on close-up.

Public admiration/attention leads to endorsements which spell business opportunities necessarily equated with money, money, money.  All you need is to have a recognizable name and you can plaster that on top of anything from washing machines to industrial strength vibrators ... and you got your millions ... just for being you.  Well, no wonder.

No wonder people want to be famous at the price of surrendering all that was once held as elements of dignity in a private life.

There can only be too many ways in explaining the phenomena of Reality Television.  We have all become voyeurs, right?  

The very nature of television as medium lends itself to voyeurism, prying into the most private images and conversations of people because the tv set has become an eye that is allowed to penetrate through the most sacred and secret sanctuaries of our lives.  We have tv sets in our living rooms, study rooms, bedrooms, cars and even our telephones.  We watch inasmuch as we are watched.  Reality television has converted the instrument to monitor into the camera that captures us watching inasmuch as we are also being watched. 

And nowadays we can't go on living unless we are watching or being watched. 

Oh, yes: be afraid ... be very afraid.

Be very afraid that not only have we accepted the intrusion of media into the most protected spaces of our lives --- but we have also considered the invasion of privacy of other people's lives as entertainment. The whole Big Brother syndrome of omniscience and even omnipotence gives a feeling of utmost superiority --- making real human situations laughable and even the anguish of others as enjoyable. 

Somewhere along the way, we have blurred the dividing line between fact from fiction, between the actual and the merely mounted. We have made the Everyman a celebrity, worthy of interest and attention ... or even undeserved admiration and celebration.  Life has become entertainment ... in a not-so-positive way. Life has become a commercial investment.

Thus there are so-called celebrities who are infamous for being famous.

There are others who are merely famous for being famous.  

There are even much more whose fame has the lifespan of a mayfly: they are has-beens and forgotten even before anyone remembers their names.  Because media depends on being current and works at a speed that is almost as fast as light, people --- including celebrities --- have been diminished to images and sound bytes that can be changed, displaced and replaced for whatever reason there might be.

Point to ponder: nobody lasts.  Yes, it is a given fact that nothing --- no one lasts forever --- but nowadays forever has been diminished to very, very short amount of time.  Unless one manages to find a way to sustain public interest or even curiosity, that popularity index will dip and eventually fade because there is always somebody fresher, younger ... and cheaper who is waiting in the sidelines ready for you to put down your guard so that he/she/it can displace you right there where the spotlight is aimed.

Thus comes this preponderance and preoccupation to always warrant public attention --- regardless of means. The end justifies after all.  To sustain market value, one must always tickle the curiosity of the audience that suffers from attention deficit ... and as time passes, the celebrity must raise the ante, invest more to grab the headlines --- either with vicious quotable quotes, picking the right fights with fellow celebrities or wannabes, getting themselves fertilized at the perfectly wrong time --- or just doing inane things to make people either applaud, gape or barf.

So when there is so much ado about a celebrity who seems to be reason enough for public attention, one can always ask, "What is this person famous for?  What is it about him or her to celebrate ... to be called a celebrity?"  And nowadays, more often than not, one ends up thinking twice or thrice before coming up with an answer that goes, "Ano nga ba?"
This is followed by an even more disturbing footnote: "Then why is there such hoopla?"

Yes, this is indeed the age when one can be famous ... for being famous.

No comments:

Post a Comment