Celebrity Cult

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As I was queueing for my shopping the other day, I glanced idly at the magazines on display in the racks alongside the conveyor belt. Madonna, looking fed up and, according to the caption, about to split from Guy Ritchie. Posh Spice looking fed up but, according to another caption, back from a four day shopping spree. I'm not quite sure what that means, incidentally, did she not go home? I find that slightly hard to believe. If she did go home then 'four day shopping spree' just means she went shopping four times in four days. Well I do that. I need food. All right, maybe she wasn't food shopping, but I can't help feeling that she ought to be allowed to go shopping if she wants to. Anyway, whatever, it's all the cult of celebrity isn't it? And that has to stop.

Or does it?

Well I don't know. Who does it hurt? The celebrities, obviously, but either you don't care about them (you heartless swine!) or, if you do, don't panic, I've got that figured out. But that's for later. Right now- who else does it hurt? In centuries gone by, people whorshipped God or, if they have a lot of reverence to spare, Gods. Or Goddesses, I suppose, depends who you ask. Anyway, there seem to be two basic view on the God front. Either they exist, or they don't. But the 'don't' camp is getting bigger and that's a lot of reverence going spare. So who are they going to revere? Well, if you're a 'do' person (on the God existing issue, that is) then they should jolly well worship God. If you're in the 'don't' camp then you'll probably be of the view that we need a new person to worship for no good reason. We could make a new person up, of course, but building myths takes time and we're also hedging our bets in case the 'do' people are right and we're worshipping false idols.

Instead, to keep ourselves safe on that score, we can happily worship false idles. No creative effort needed; we've got a ready set of idles, like the old Greek gods, petulant, borish, always trying to have sex with each other and occasionally popping down to earth to turn someone into a swan.

That just leaves one small problem. The celebrities. Do they want to be followed around and photographed all the time? Probably not. Well, some of you said you were worried and the solution is coming right up. But first, those of you who don't care. They court the press, don't they? They court fame and celebrity and other such stuff. Well, true, they probably do, but that's a consensual arrangement isn't it? The press can always tell them to shove off. But they don't, they lap it up. The fact that the press lap at will doesn't mean they can then lap whenever they feel like it. Let's get away from lapping before it takes us into uncharted territory (Lapland) and head into an easier analogy.

Would you turn up at a teacher's house at three in the morning, banging on the door, demanding to know how the Battle of Hastings was won? Maybe you would, in which case obviously you're a bit odd. Which probably means you're the person who reads these magazines anyway, so I guess I might as well spell it out for you. Teachers provide a service, for which they are paid a (very minimal) fee. The terms are fairly clear; they don't have to teach whenever it suits anybody, they are only obliged to teach fairly specific groups of people at well determined times of the day and night. Same deal with celebrities. They provide a service and you can't just go around demanding that they provide it whenever it suits you personally.

The trouble is, the terms of the service have changed, somewhat, haven't they? First of all, all an actor had to do was turn up and gesture a bit. Then some swine invented talkies1 and they had to learn lines. Then, in due course, people suddenly started viewing the actors as people who were of interest in their own right. Weird idea, doubtless, but societies like the odd weird idea just to keep things interesting. Anyway, there it was. Suddenly, they had to act off-screen, as well as on. They had to have a good, clean cut image and not turn out, inconveniently, to actually, completely to everyone's surprise, be gay. We've moved on (most of us) from the gay issue now, of course, but we still expect these people to be morally better than we every manage to be ourselves. Which is all right, I suppose, but it sets us up for the new problem.

It's okay being a good looking, cool, sophisticated person who everyone wants to marry/emulate/sleep with/assassinate2 but society has a new role for the role models. They don't provoke awe any more - what we really need is people to provoke moral outrage. This is why they have to be followed around all the time until they do something reprehensible, the sort of thing everyone else is doing anyway, and therefore wants to sneer at somebody else for, so they can defer the guilt. This is also, of course, the part of the job that most celebrities would rather abdicate.

So here we are. Those of you who care about the celebrities (and this must, since I have argued so powerfully, surely include all sane readers3) are still patiently waiting for the solution. Well I have it for you. What we need is volunteer celebrities. I know, my first thought, when I had the idea, was 'don't be so stupid, who would volunteer for such a task'. But then the shopping queue (you remember that, right?) moved on, and I moved on from Posh Spice and Madonna to the next magazine, and my eye was drawn to the magic words. Big Brother. I'd forgotten, of course, that we have an army of people queueing up to humiliate or even demonise themselves on national television solely in the hope that someone, somewhere, will pay them some attention. These people will happily be followed around day and night solely so that we can mock their weight, clothes, lifestyle choices and level of inebriation4. Problem solved. Everyone a winner.

Just one last thing. You probably think this is a fine and worthy piece of prose. You possibly, just possibly, didn't like it. Either way, you are free to post, or not, your remarks, should you have any, in the currently empty 'discuss this entry' thread, at the bottom of the page. I, equally am free, should I wish, to read and, if the mood takes me, reply. Or not. I may simply unsubscribe from that thread and then I never have to hear from you again. Besides, nobody's paying me any attenion are they? Big Brother isn't watching me. It's sat in front of the telly, like everyone else, watching Big Brother.

Articles by benjaminpmoore Archive


08.02.07 Front Page

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1For younger readers, please note: In the early days of cinema, there was no sound, just captions. In due course, sound was invented and the actors had to learn lines and display emotion audibly. Why Keanu Reeves rose to fame in the sound era when his contribution seems almost entirely to be visual, is beyond me.2That last one can be tricky, but you can pull it off.3All right, so I picked the wrong audience.4How drunk they are.

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