In 1968, Andy Warhol famously predicted that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” Here’s the problem: nobody is content with fifteen minutes anymore. Used to be, quasi-celebrities understood when their fifteen minutes of fame had elapsed. Tawny Kitaen rolled around on the hood of a Jaguar in 1985, and then she mercifully disappeared. And it’s not like Whistle Pops ever made a comeback. They had their moment.
I remember watching “Match Game” in the seventies, and though I didn’t have the razor-sharp pop-culture awareness I have now, even then I would see ‘celebrities’ and think “why are these people famous?” Oh, I get it…they’re famous because they’re celebrities.And they’re celebrities because they’re famous. And the dog chases its tail, and so on, and so on, and blah blah blah.
Now, I’m kinda old-school when it comes to language. Well, except for using ‘kinda‘ and ‘old-school’. I can’t help but have the nagging feeling that if one is to be called a ‘celebrity,’ then one should have done something worthy of being CELEBRATED!And even the definition of ‘celebrity’ has been watered down to where most reality ‘stars,’ to rework a Dorothy Parker quote, run “the gamut of talent from A to B.”
NBC even had a show called “I’m A Celebrity—Get Me Out Of Here!” I still remember the promo for the show this week began with the most promising tease I have ever heard: Ten celebrities are dropped in the jungle. Unfortunately, that phrase was not followed by and are left there to die. Now that would be ‘must-see TV.’ Renew it every year, and every year we would get rid of ten more barnacles on the hull of American culture.
Seriously, I’ve always had a problem with reality TV (and remember the days when ‘reality’ and ‘TV’ were two different things?). If you’re going to put people in dangerous situations, in theory to see if they can survive, then I say, let it play out. Don’t give us some deus ex video where we know that if someone gets their ass bitten by a poisonous tree lizard they’ll end up ok—let’s see if they can really survive.
Tell me ‘Survivor’ wouldn’t be more compelling if, after dividing the attention-mongers into teams, the camera crews and host simply packed up and left them on the island. A couple of years later, send the crew back in to see if that annoying investment banker or the plucky waitress have morphed into Brando at the end of “Apocalypse Now.” You want to deprive these people of the basics, take away the cameras–see if they can survive without attention. It would have all the wacky of “Lord of The Flies,”, but with commercials.