The Danger of Chasing Fame

What “celebritization” is doing to everyone with a smart phone.

Todd Brison

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Image purchased by the author via iStock

When you watch an actor on screen, you see at least 3 people.

  1. The character being played
  2. The public persona they wear “off-screen”
  3. The person they really are

That’s the sort of bizarre reality worth keeping in mind while watching something like the Academy Awards. Most of these people aren’t “people” per se. Even when they aren’t on set, they’re acting.

Is the “real” Glenn Close the one who did “Da Butt” on national television a few weeks, or is she Cruella DeVille? Does the “real” Frances McDormand howl in front of Hollywood’s elite?

It’s a puzzle. One that we’ve been staring at for some time.

John Wayne (whose actual name was Marion Morrison) worked on “the Wayne thing” for a decade before being cast in westerns. Also, the cowboy grew up in a ritzy L.A. suburb.

Contrary to what we might believe, most of us don’t actually remember Charlie Chaplin. We remember The Tramp — a character with big shoes, a cane, and a weird hat. There is also Charlie Chaplin the person who couldn’t literally conceive of his fame and Charlie Chaplin the four-time husband.

The skeptic might condemn a celebrity for putting on a false mask when the cameras stop. We claim to want the real version of our idols.

First, we don’t really want that.

Second, famous people don’t put up a ruse for fun.

It’s survival. As celebrity grows, it eats away at pieces of you. Stars cut up slivers of themselves and ration them out to the rabid industry.

An anonymous actor puts it this way in a study on celebrity:

“Fame builds and builds like a tornado… by the time it gets to you, it can put you in a world that has no reality whatsoever.”

Imagine you go to acting school with dreams of making it big. The second those dreams come true, your identity is now little more than a transaction. Admirers, publicists, agents, talk show hosts, red carpet attendees, cab drivers and advertisers all see you as “that person.”

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