Puts You There Where Things Are Hollow

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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16 Responses

  1. Patrick Cahalan says:

    Some people are addicted to external validation. Some people don’t require much of it at all. Most (the staggering majority of) people are somewhere in the middle. But getting famous can be a heady experience for someone who was never popular, even if they think they’re happy with a fairly private life.Report

  2. Tod Kelly says:

    No, there is nothing wrong with you for preferring privacy.

    To the larger question: I think that for most of history (and really, most of my life) fame was a byproduct of success. The Beatles were famous, as was Norman Mailer, as was MLK Jr, as was Magic Johnson. Most of the people I remember growing up were famous because they had done something slightly or incredibly remarkable. We paid attention to them because of that.

    Somewhere along the line, however, it appears that the accomplishments have taken a back seat; fame itself is not a byproduct so much as the desired outcome.

    To a certain extent , I blame cable TV. With the sudden flourishing of channels that started a while back, new content was needed – but there wasn’t really enough people creating content that was both watchable and affordable. So cable shows started making “covering the famous” their bread and butter. Why spend $20 mil a year to create the new BH 90201, when you could spend $300k and just show public footage of the stars of BH 90210 being fawned over?

    I remember when Elvis died back in the 70s. There was a bit of national mourning, but not all that much. (The Elvis “sightings” would come a few years later.) The only reason we as a nation recognized his death at all was that he was for so long a game-changing national icon – even if he was long expired by the time of his ultimate demise.

    I like to compare that death with Anna Nicole Smith’s back a few years back. I’ve never been a big cable news watcher, but I remember for a solid week every day at the gym there was nothing on CNN or FOX but coverage of her death. I think the message this sends (along with the plethora of reality TV shows that feature awful, awful human beings) is that what is important isn’t “what have you accomplished,” it’s “are you famous or not.”Report

  3. Kimmi says:

    A friend of mine had a “brush” with fame. A “fan” of his showed up at his doorstep… this was rather a problem, because he wasn’t actually old enough to be a published author.
    Now he uses nom de guerres…Report

  4. Patrick Cahalan says:

    Getting famous is actually easy. The fact that people don’t avail themselves of that at a greater rate tells me that there’s something unnatural about wanting to be famous for being famous.

    Reality TV is a gateway drug.Report

    • Dan Miller in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      I’m curious about this. Short of committing a horrible crime (with the attendant risks of prison etc) or having/spending a ton of money (obviously unavailable to most people), what are the easy, near-surefire ways of attaining fame? I’d bet that for every Snooki, there are thousands of wannabes who didn’t make the cut.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Dan Miller says:

        There are lots and lots of live television events, across the nation. It used to be you could get famous for dropping trou and running around during them.

        A suitably creative person can figure out workarounds to this limitation. I came up with about a dozen ways to famousize myself in the last twenty minutes.

        There are also non-violent crimes which can be exercised, and have been in recent history. This more often properly results in infamy, but it’s possible to balance the sweet spot and pull off something that gets you famous without getting your butt in jail.Report

  5. Fame is a horrible, corrosive thing. Our culture is littered with people whose lives were shattered by becoming more famous than their strength of character could handle.Report

  6. Sam M says:

    Isn’t it a question of degree, like most other things? Generally, people like liquor in one for or another. A glass of wine with dinner. A six pack with the game. But some people drink a handle of cheap vodka in one sitting.

    Almost everyone likes to eat. But some people weigh 850 pounds.

    Almost everybody likes recognition in one form or another. Other people want desperately to be on TV. I think the latter group is a pretty small subset.Report

  7. Jason Kuznicki says:

    Carl Becker’s The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers suggests that fame is a hangover from Christianity, or a corruption thereof. Fame substitutes for heaven, and posterity’s judgment is the judgment of God.Report

  8. I suspect that the same impulse that compels people to blog–even pseudonymously–shares something, although I’m not sure I can say exactly what, with the impulse for fame.

    Similarly to what Sam M. wrote, I think even the most privacy loving people like or would like some measure of “fame.”Report