We’re living in a moment in time where anyone can be famous for anything. I believe before that, you had to be a serial killer, a politician in a scandal, or a pop teen star the media liked to bully to be able to make a name for yourself. Vine really did open the door for people to become famous over almost dropping a croissant. We’ve gotten to the point where most kids want to be YouTubers when they grow up. But for all we’ve been taught about the peak of life being in the presence of fame and riches, what are the real effects it has on the people who become engrossed in it and for us as the audience?
What is it like to be famous? The depiction we receive is very fun: We see fast cars, tons of fans, brand deals, hell, making your own brand. There’re the photoshoots, the red carpets, the followers, the people fawning over your every movement, the stalking, the harassment, the debt—hold on. Those don’t match the definition of fame.
I thought fame was all about being popular and going to parties? Well, that’s the image that is most profitable. Fame is a double-edged sword. You don’t get all the glamorous perks without giving up something and in many cases, the price you pay for fame is your humanity.
Now, at the end of the day, I am speaking from observation and investigation rather than experience. I did not get up and personal with Beyonce and asked her to give a tour of her lifestyle. What I have noticed is that with the impact TikTokers, YouTubers, and influencers have made into the mainstream, the desire to be famous and fame itself is being glorified. Many of the downsides of fame are being blurred. Our society is morphing its ideas of exposure and popularity and we are NOT analyzing it enough.
Let us start with one a discussion of one of the biggest controversies when it comes to fame: privacy and consent. It seems that as soon as someone becomes famous, they sign over some contract that says their personal relationships, whereabouts, even their body parts belong to the public.
There are reports of celebrities having their hair and butts touched “for the lols” and there were people selling sweat and hair of One Direction members at their peak. Then we have paparazzi that act as if they’re working in the name of “journalism” and not a quick buck. Their whole career is just…stalking people in the hope of selling it off to one of those awful tabloids.
As we can see with the #FreeBritney movement, tabloids like that act like their degrees give them the right to write smear pieces and be absolutely atrocious. Celebrities need to disguise themselves, lock and cover their windows and have several different social media accounts just to live peacefully. And society has normalized that! All because they… create content in some way or another.
As I am writing, I am listening to Mariah Carey’s (God bless her, the media has been doing her dirty for too long) “Touch My Body” that has a line about not selling a tape of her making love to someone to the news. It’s so bad and such widely known, it can be a reference in a song and still not be treated with seriousness.
Our second ignored problem is the massive amount of online bullying. We have made it normal to wake up and be downright hateful and jealous before we have even brushed our teeth. This isn’t to say that people do not deserve valid criticism. Some celebrities act recklessly and are so harmful and toxic, and should not hold the power that they do. However, that is not the type of discussion we wake up with every day.
Take Charlie and Dixie D’Amelio. They are often criticized for being famous for nothing. That thinking is broken. Better thinking is that due to a combination of privilege and algorithms, they essentially have all this power in their hands for no reason.
That to me is a more valid criticism of a pretty unfair system. You think I wouldn’t like to be getting money for being cute rather than giving $120,000 dollars to a university for a CHANCE I’m going to get a job afterward. But Charlie and Dixie are waking up with death threats and hate comments all for just participating in the system. This makes it so that the system stays the same and we just have scapegoats to suffer for it.
How is that fair to those two young girls? How can people look at them have breakdowns over their self-esteem being literally smashed and feel righteous? Being rich and famous does not replace their sense of worth. I know when people make jokes at the expense of other people on the internet that it is not always hurtful. I would be a liar if I did not say I was roasting DJ Khalid when it came out, he didn’t eat kitty. However, it seems that the disconnect between the real world and the online one has given people permission to be a sort of vicious that I KNOW you can’t defend in real life.
The final problem that I feel is becoming more widely discussed is the mental health effects, for both celebrities and their audiences. The D’Amelio’s are not the first people to have breakdowns about how fame has made it easy to dehumanize them. The list could go on forever.
When people become famous, we stop treating them with empathy. They are sold to us so we treat them like commodities that we can use and abuse. And then we get into the effects on our audience. So many young kids would give their all to become famous. Our social media representation is becoming so important to how we see ourselves. Losing followers can literally put people in despair. Why are we not showing Nosedive from Black Mirror as an educational piece? And for some, the desire for fame goes so far that people with nefarious purposes can abuse people, especially young kids, who want to get close to the affirmation and worth that fame supposedly gives.
Listen, being famous is not bad. There are always noteworthy people in society. It is simply another function of having a civilization. However, I believe it beings glamorized excessively. What happened to the kids who wanted to be freaking astronauts? Not to do the whole “the youth are ruined,” but why aren’t we glamorizing careers like being a teacher or a landscaper.
Oh, because those careers don’t make companies billions of dollars abusing people. Please continue to tweet at your favorite celebrity about how much their music helped you. Post great pictures of yourself that you want your friends to see and feel happy about. Make a joke about how our government has gone broke.
But find validation somewhere else. Respect people, understand the concept of a parasocial relationship. Just because you know and engage with certain content, does not mean the person making it has to engage back with you. Take a break from Insta and go on a hike or engage with a hobby. And for the love of God, if you’re talking tons of crap online, you better be ready to square up with me in a Walmart Parking lot.