What would you do for fame?
I know, the "Reality TV" phenomenon should already have answered that for us. But I mean, really. What would you be willing to do?
Just fill in the blank: I would be willing to do…
For one aspiring actress, the answer was "porn."
Her name is Montana Fishburne - and yes, she is the daughter of that Fishburne - the Oscar-nominated actor Laurence Fishburne. "My dad is very upset" and "very hurt," she acknowledged. Yet as DeWayne Wickham reports in USA Today, she is bound and determined to follow through on her plan; to "become a Hollywood A-lister by launching her film career among the industry's bottom feeders."
To her credit, she's seen sex on film work for Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, both of whom saw the release of home-made sex tapes catapult them to notoriety and opportunity. So perhaps we shouldn't be shocked at her line of thinking. "I'm impatient about getting well-known and hav[ing] more opportunities," said the daughter of the acting legend, "and this seemed like a great way to get started on it."
In his 2007 book Fame Junkies, Jake Halpern asked probing questions in relation to what he calls America's favorite addiction:
Why do more people watch the ultimate competition for celebrity, American Idol, than watch the nightly news on the three major networks combined?
Why do down-to-earth, educated people find stories about Paris Hilton's dating life irresistible?
Why do teenage girls - when given the option of "pressing a magic button and becoming either stronger, smarter, famous, or more beautiful" - overwhelmingly opt for fame?
I have written in other places about a cultural trend that is getting, I believe, far too little attention. It's been termed the "celebrification" of culture - an awkward term, perhaps, but like "industrialization" and "bureaucratization," it speaks to a broad and historical trend: the increasing centrality of celebrities to the culture.
Movie and television stars, professional athletes and musicians, business moguls and journalists, have captured our attention as never before. Joseph Epstein writes that "a received opinion about America in the early twenty-first century is that our culture values only two things: money and celebrity." From this, celebrities have become our cultural commentators, charity spokespersons, role models, and political candidates. They have become the arbiters of taste, morality and public opinion. Richard Schickel, who has written for Time magazine since 1972, reflects, "No issue or idea in our culture can gain any traction with the general population unless it has celebrity names attached to it."
Which means an increasing number of people, particularly the young, can find little meaning, purpose or value to their lives apart from it.
Andy Warhol famously opined that in our world, everyone has their fifteen minutes of fame.
But what can be increasingly said with certainty is that today, everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame.
Even if it means the degradation of porn.
James Emery White
"Actor's daughter, like so many others, seeks stardom at a high cost," DeWayne Wickham, USA Today, Tuesday, August 10, 2010, p. 9A.
Jake Halpern, Fame Junkies (Houghton Mifflin, 2007).
On the term "celebrification," and the insights of Epstein and Schickel, see Celebrity Culture," The Hedgehog Review: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture, Spring 2005, Volume Seven, Number One.