Thursday, September 16, 2010

Point to Ponder: Reflecting on the Celebrity Culture

When I was in college, I was an avid reader of Readers' Digest. Apart from the usual witty sections like "Laughter the Best Medicine" "College Rags" and "All in a Day's Work", one of my favorite sections was "Points to Ponder", a section that had profound statements, often about a paragraph long, on life's little lessons. Sadly I no longer see this section on the current South African editions that I occasionally pick up from Nairobi's street vendors. I was so addicted to this section that I would pick up the best of the lot and write them down in an exercise book that I still own over 10 years later (yes, I went to college when laptops were an extreme luxury and we wrote down stuff in our diaries and exercise books!). It was when flipping through this book - now aged with time - that I came across this gem:-

"When I was 12, I read Tolstoy. But I didn't know it was Tolstoy. I was interested in the story, not the author. A real reader, especially a young reader, never cares too much about the author. He wants to read the book and he enjoys it. When people begin to be less interested in the art, they become more interested in the artist."
- Conversations with Isaac Bashevis Singer, with Richard Burgin (Doubleday)

I have noticed a trend with some of my friends where before watching a movie, they ask who is in it. If it is not a superstar name, then they figure it is not worth watching. People go to poetry readings based on who will be there (and then proceed to chat away when the poetry is being read) and not necessarily to hear the poetry. If there is no high profile name in your event, it will be shunned by the media and thus the public. Even in organizations, it is now common to hear people brainstorm on the need to get a high profile name for an event to be a success. It is no longer about the content but rather in whose name the content is affiliated.

I have at times been accused of being aloof to celebrities and other high profile names that I have met in the line of work or socially. I might like your art, writing, music etc, but that does not necessarily mean I have to treat you as if you are more special than us mere mortals.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the world in general has become far too enamoured of celebrities. What on earth is a celebrity without fans to purchase their wares (movies, music, books, perfumes,etc.)?

    It saddens me that we live in a culture of celebrity. We even make celebrities out of those that have questionable talent (Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian). This is an extremely sad state of affairs. There are so many better things to spend money on, including good works.