The Value of Fame

This past week, my mom got my boys hooked on I Love Lucy. I’ve seen every episode, but it has been years since I’ve watched the show. I think what struck me about the show is that it is clear it is very funny, but the underlying differences in culture prove that not much has changed. It seems we are a bit more muted in outwardly showing specific views (like sexism), but it is still there.

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One of the most interesting episodes was when Lucy wanted to sneak into Cornel Wilde’s hotel room, and she did this with the reluctant help of one of the bell boys. The funny scenario of events led Cornel to believe the bell boy was trying to audition for him. Then he responded, “Bobby, I didn’t expect it from you- but then again, everyone wants to get into show business.” This is a myth that has been perpetuated since Hollywood first started. I started wondering if people today still believe this is true, and I believe they do.

Fame and celebrity have become their own type of career that seems to appeal to many. Never mind the artistry of music or the craft of acting- people have come right out and said they have put themselves into auditions or their children, specifically so they could become “famous”.

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I think there are a couple of reasons why this is the case.

For one, I think culturally we have tried to create our own hierarchy, with fame being pretty much the top of the list (people see fame as having power, wealth, and occasionally beauty). From a young age, we teach people to look up to their favorite recording artists or actors, but if you think about it, it is a bit odd that people acting or singing seem as powerful or heroic…but…that is what the media feeds us. The media tells us that if we are used in the media then we are important (even the people interviewing the artists have reached celebrity status because they are seen in the media regularly). I personally don’t find this a healthy view at all, but it’s one that I think many people don’t realize they have or are helping their children develop. It is detrimental because if feeds false information about what is important in life. It also creates a problem when people are using the media for other reasons and the entire message is overshadowed by curiosity or judgment or motive. People truly believe people can’t possibly want to use the media without wanting or expecting fame out of it, because that is what has been ingrained in them since birth- that is the truth for them.

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The second reason I think our culture has an unhealthy obsession with fame stems from a very healthy part of life: our desire as human beings to be heard, to be acknowledged- all stemming from our social nature and desire for community. This is why we have a desire to personalize, to create facebook pages, even to blog- We have a hunger to connect and have our voices heard by others. As human beings, being able to have an opinion and input in this world validates us as people in our community. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If we all took the time to listen to each other there would be less judgment and more compassion. Oprah articulated this thought very well in her finale speech for her show:

“I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?’

“Understanding that one principle, that everybody wants to be heard, has allowed me to hold the microphone for you all these years with the least amount of judgment. Now I can’t say I wasn’t judging some days. Some days, I had to judge just a little bit. But it’s helped me to stand and to try to do that with an open mind and to do it with an open heart. It has worked for this platform, and I guarantee you it will work for yours. Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. ‘I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.’”

-Oprah Winfrey

Somehow this intrinsic desire to be heard was skewed by cultural norms of a celebrity obsessed culture.

What can we do? I believe the generation we are currently raising is the answer. Educate ourselves on consumer marketing and media- how they are intertwined – and allow exposure (but always educate our children) accordingly.

In my own family, we have been cautious of how we talk about people in our home. We have introduced the children to stories and people who may or may not be well known in popular culture but have lived lives we believe have benefitting humanity, perhaps not even by doing something so large that it changes the world, but  by making small positive contributions that dramatically impact their life and the lives of others.

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