05 March, 2007

A Vapor...An Accident...

What is it about ‘celebrities’ that makes them interesting? Our fascination seems to be a kind of vicarious stalking. We actually pay people (tabloids, celebrity sites and paparazzi) to do the stalking for us and we then read their reports and gawp at the pictures.

I can sort of understand why guys would want to ‘stalk’ people like Britney Spears through the media (even to this extent). She is, after all, an attractive woman. The same goes for Kylie, Nichole Kidman, Scarlett Johansson, etc., etc.. But what makes Britney so popular? Did you know that ‘Britney’ is the number one search term on Technorati. Does this just say something about the stalker mentality of Technorati users? I don’t think so. Is it just that when she first started in show biz she emphasised her youth, appearing in school uniforms and going for the paedophile vote? Probably not – because there seem to be far more women interested in Britney and her type than there are men.

In fact, if you glance through the stalker magazines (Hello, Cosmopolitan, all the TV mags – you know the ones I mean – and the websites) you’ll see they are almost entirely aimed at women and yet most of the celebrities they drool on about are also women. Their pathetic lives, their ostentatious homes, their poor children, their miserable partners, all seem to excite a horrible, voyeuristic interest. It is all very creepy.

And it isn’t that our own lives are dull or uneventful. Everyone who reads these stalker reports has lives in which family members are sick, where loved ones die, where friends fall out, where spouses cheat, where marriages fail, where children take drugs, where hearts are broken, where there is betrayal and loss.

Perhaps it reassures us that, even if we were beautiful and filthy rich, we would still be frail and vulnerable like they are. Maybe it is simple vicarious living. We watch the rich and beautiful living the degenerate and debased lives we wish we could have for ourselves. Or maybe it is something worse.

Maybe because we are primitive pack-animals at heart, we look up to these exaggerated, overhyped people as pack leaders, to be adored and followed, to be worshipped almost, in the way of craven dogs, lapping up the very mention of their names while waiting to tear out their throats at the first sign of weakness or fear.

(PS Just in case you think I've gone mad, mis-spelling an easy word like vapour, the title of this piece comes from a quote by Mark Twain, "Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." Mr. Twain, of course, spoke only American.)

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