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Society’s fascination with fame

November 3, 2014
Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

Do you remember those long-ago days when the world actually made sense? When us common folk looked up to individuals whose accomplishments we admired and whose actions we could applaud?

There were men like John Glenn, whose career as an astronaut was followed by service in Congress. And the tiny figure of Mother Teresa inspired the world by her selfless devotion to the poor. Thomas Edison's fame was the result of his amazing creativity and countless inventions.

Those folks became famous in a different time, a different world. It was long before the advent of social media, before television and newspapers reported around the clock, before opinion-building publications like People Magazine appeared in every doctor's office.

In today's world, fame has morphed into something entirely different. Today we have an ever-changing list of famous folks. Their pictures are on TV. Their names fill the news. Their activities are reported throughout the social media.

These people have accomplished nothing to make the world a better place, nothing to help their fellow humans. Instead, they have become simply "famous for being famous," by cashing in on the public's insatiable interest in those willing to do something outlandish.

Among the most successful in this fame-for-the-sake-of-fame army are the members of the Kardashian clan.

Thanks to a well-organized publicity team, the Kardashians have kept an eager world watching their every move.

Marriage, divorce, parenthood, cooking, fashion, pet choices it seems no facet of the Kardashians' lives is too insignificant or intimate, too foolish or fleeting.

Though the Kardashians have been on the roster of the famous for being famous much longer than most of their fellow celebrity seekers, they are far from the only entrants on that list.

There has been a constant stream of others whose names bombarded us in the past, for a few days or weeks or longer.

Some who come to mind are Bristol Palin, Jon and Kate Gosselin, Nadya "Octomom" Suleman, the Heenes of Colorado (parents of the "Balloon Boy"), child beauty pageant contestant Honey Boo Boo.and on and on.

Another segment of this list is made up of folks whose accomplishments had previously given them a legitimate claim to fame, but who have sadly become the focus of the media spotlight all over again.

Golfer Tiger Woods and Olympic medal swimmer Michael Phelps are two entrants into this special list. Tiger's wandering ways and Michael's out-of-the-pool drinking problems have brought them renewed - and unwanted - notice.

It seems there will never be a shortage of folks who will woo and win the fevered focus of the public, bringing them fame, no matter how short lived.

In today's world, acclaim no longer requires an outstanding accomplishment nor an effort to make things better. Almost anyone willing to perform some attention-getting activity will be rewarded with his or her "fifteen minutes of fame" by a media that's in full operation 24/7.

But such celebrity tends to be fleeting. As one student of human nature observed, "These are people who, when they cease to shock us, cease to interest us."



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