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The Cult of Celebrity - How Fame Works

Anthony Chatfield
Fame is a commodity these days, with an ever-increasing demand. Nearly anyone can become famous, and many people do, but what makes it last?
Fame is a fickle beast. Unfortunately, in the world today, it is also a beast of burden, and finding one to carry you around for a few hours is as easy as it has ever been.
Even as we pine and fawn over the 'famous for being famous' crowd in Hollywood, thousands more find temporary stardom on the Internet through less traditional means. So, what defines fame in a world where ping pong balls or clever Photoshop skills can garner someone international acclaim?

The Tinseltown Classic

Fame and stardom may be evolving, but the same silver screen formula has created numerous stars and starlets that still capture the imaginations of millions. Movies are undeniably the largest star vehicle in the world and with a few quick films, a man or woman in Hollywood can become a household name nearly anywhere.
However, thanks to the Internet, tabloids, and the instantaneous transmission of information around the world, it's not as feasible for these living statues of gold and bronze to survive the scandals that tend to follow them around like flies on...well you get the idea. Being famous is a dangerous proposition these days as even the tiniest sip of stardom can result in full on intoxication.
Stars like Tom Cruise have made names for themselves by speaking out on various topics repeatedly. By constantly announcing themselves to the public, sometimes in eccentrically misguided ways, they lose pieces of their credibility, causing their careers to actually suffer.
It has nothing to do with religious or philosophical beliefs. It has to do with the general opinion of the public and how much a celebrity differs from that perspective. At a certain point, the burning curiosity of the masses becomes confusion and eventually disgust.

Famous for the Sake of Fame

Yes, there are the Paris Hiltons, Nicole Richies, and Kevin Federlines of the world as well. These individuals have made a name for themselves by simply being themselves.
Latching on to the Hollywood lifestyle and holding on for dear life, this type of celebrity transcends recognition for accomplishments because they have not accomplished anything. Paris Hilton is rich and parties with other famous people. Kevin Federline married Britney Spears, a woman who used to be the biggest pop star on the planet.
The cult of celebrity is intriguing because it feeds on itself. Even as millions of readers and fans sit idly and wonder what exactly these men and women did to become so famous, they ravenously devour the information fed to them on a daily basis by sites like TMZ, supermarket tabloids, or idle workplace gossip.
Even individuals who no longer earn their stardom, such as Lindsey Lohan or Britney Spears can find their way into this category through a litany of captivating, if largely dim acts. Being in the public spotlight has an effect on people that is impossible to understand.
For that reason, celebrities have been known to act strange, falling victim to their own stardom and the surreal realization that everything they do is being watched.
Fame for fame's sake is an odd accomplishment, and only made possible by the oversaturation of news and entertainment media.
Thousands of shows, websites, and paparazzi make the industry boom, and carefully worded copy and special reports ensure that the viewers and readers of the world become attached to these odd individuals who have somehow become pariahs and saints in our consumer culture.

The Homegrown Celebrity

The old modicum that everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame has never been quite as true as it is today.
The internet has created a culture in which anyone can become famous for anything, largely because of the user-defined credos of sites like YouTube and Blogger. If anyone with internet access and a cheap video camera can become a superstar, there are likely to be millions of superstars.
Oddball humor such as Ask a Ninja or the video blogging of LonelyGirl15 are prime examples of how a single individual with a webcam can become an international superstar overnight. The free flow of information makes it possible.
Of course, what this means is that even the famous can become more famous by using this philosophy. Bands like 'Ok Go' made a name for themselves with homegrown music videos of choreographed dance routines and treadmills. Even advertising campaigns are taking the viral route these days, using unnamed movie trailers and cleverly crafted videos.
The internet provides the largest demographic in the world and only a small percentage of that demographic needs to be curious about a video or blog to make it successful. For that reason, clever ideas and word of mouth are all that a person needs anymore to become famous.

Everyone Else

That makes the rest of us consumers. The world is full of consumers and viewers, those individuals who watch as Tom Cruise says odd things or Paris Hilton goes to jail. Everyone else sees us watching and the content just continues to grow. Fame may be a fickle beast, but it is also a commodity, and it is more freely available than ever before.