Celebrity vs Mystery

The world, you see, no longer has any tolerance for — let alone fascination with — people who aren’t willing to publicize themselves. Figures swathed in shadows are démodé in a culture in which the watchword is transparency.

Increasingly, the perception is that everyone is knowable, everyone is accessible and that everyone is potentially a star. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, personal Web sites with open-door chat rooms, the endlessly proliferating television reality shows are now commonplace forums for the famous who want to seem like ordinary people and for ordinary people who want to seem famous. Us magazine’s rubric “Stars, they’re just like us!” has now been inverted to “Us, we’re just like stars.”

THE theory appears to be that if you never shut up, no one can forget you. And that to shut up is to withdraw from life. I was seated not long ago next to a magazine editor, discussing a former glamour girl who had disappeared to a farm in South America. “I think it’s cool she was able to go cold turkey on being a celebrity,” I said. The editor answered sadly: “Really? I see it as giving up.”

Fame has become an existential condition: If your image isn’t reflected back at you, then how do you know you’re alive? The problem is that, people being people, 24-hour visibility will ultimately breed if not contempt, then weary familiarity. That’s why the tabloids need a new generation of cover girls and boys every year or so, a breeding process facilitated by reality television. Jake, Vienna, Heidi, Spencer: blink and you’ll miss them, though you can bet they’ll keep using Twitter until they die.

From a fantastic article in the NY Times. (H/T Melanie)

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