Thursday, June 25, 2009

hero worship vs. celebrity worship

Let's note from the start that I plan completely to avoid any religious discussion in this post and am using the word "worship" to mean "extreme interest, adulation, etc."

The media frenzy over Michael Jackson is bugging me. I am a member of the original MTV generation, as in, I remember when it debuted and when it still actually played music videos. I was in high school when the frenzy over "Thriller" and all that was going on. I was a sophomore in college when he set his hair on fire shooting a Pepsi commercial. I mean, let's face it, the dude had been weird for a solid 25 years. Whatever you may think of his music -- and I can take or leave it, honestly -- he's going to be remembered more for the weirdness than the tunes. Which is sad.

The last .... whatever you call this outpouring of what, grief? from people who never laid eyes on the famous person -- that I remember being this bad was over Princess Diana. Didn't understand that one either. Definitely didn't understand why Mother Teresa, who died around the same time, and who devoted her life to society's outcasts, didn't get 1/10th the press of a pretty young thing in need of significant amounts of therapy. But I digress.

I wanted to reach through the screen this afternoon and kiss the guy who directed a MJ documentary. He told Keith Olbermann that he really didn't get celebrity worship and didn't believe in it. Me either. Is it the fantasy aspect? Am I just too practical? Because really, I would trade one abnormally attractive person without two brain cells to rub together for 100 bridge trolls with brains and a sense of humor. (It could be my self-concept that's coloring that, I suppose, and Bob DeFeo, if you're out there somewhere reading this, I have never forgotten what you said about me in 10th grade biology, you son of a bitch. But that's a whole other post.) I appreciate reality, and not "reality." The vacuous and juvenile sorts who end up on shows like The Bachelor (BARF) aren't real; nor are they interesting. Attention whores? You bet. Insecure? Absolutely. But not interesting.

So what exactly fascinates people about them, then? I wouldn't be famous for all the tea in China. People have told me for decades that I need to "tell my story." I have responded for decades that I will never write an autobiography because 1, nobody gives a shit, and 2, I am so uninterested in spilling my guts to the planet that my interest is clear off the negative end of the scale. There are people I will tell one-on-one, if the situation -- mine or theirs -- warrants it. Otherwise, therapists exist for a reason. I don't need to write a book to unburden myself and I don't want the attention that comes with it. My fantasies involve things like getting a job that makes me enough money to pay all my bills in full every month. I don't understand the sorts who need to be the center of 6 billion people's attention.

Hero worship, OTOH, is entirely different. Celebrities get worshipped for being attractive and only occasionally for being talented. Heroes are something else again. Heroes DESERVE adulation. Funnily enough, though, they'll usually shy from it.

The definition of "heroes" varies for everyone, I guess, but my heroes are people who live their lives with integrity, stand up for what they believe in, no matter how unpopular they might become for it, and treat ALL people with the respect they earn simply by virtue of being human. All people, from the richest person in the world to the starving leper in a gutter in India, automatically earn basic dignity. Some earn more through good words and deeds; some earn less through bad ones. But some of it is a simple birthright. And most of the time, you never hear about the real heroes. I suppose they have the satisfaction of knowing their lives have been well lived. What do you suppose the people who are worshipped for their looks or their money or their talent do when whatever makes them special disappears? It's got to leave a huge void.

I dunno. I don't get the whole celebrity thing. I don't know how "entertainment" reporters are able to sleep at night (I'm lookin' at YOU, employees of TMZ and Entertainment Tonight and the like). I don't know why something like the death of someone who sang a few songs -- which is a talent zillions of people have, you know -- overshadows "minor details" (sarcasm alert) like genocide and bombing innocent people to death and the inability of the richest country in the world to ensure that every one of its citizens can afford good health care. In a nutshell -- WTF, world?

Duncan Sheik, Earthbound Starlight

What are you looking at, what do you see?
Is it the truth or a strange fantasy?
Whenever you're watching
You're changing the scene
Time is a place, this place is a song
Where mothers are distant and fathers are gone
He too may be watching but he's not letting on

Can't dry your eyes
Or say it's alright
Even though he might
And she can't kiss your cheek
As the days become weeks
No rewind
No repeats
Days, nights, wrongs, rights, earthbound starlight

Hey, are you listening?
What is the sound of things that you lose that you never have found?
You're finding the way
Or turning around
Dancer with destiny
Tempter of fate
The life that you lived is only a taste
Sometimes the sweetest is the time that you waste

I won't dry your eyes
Or say it's alright
'Cause sometimes that's the lie
Even if she kissed your cheek
Still the days become weeks
No rewind
No repeats
Steal your heart
Life is hard
Never easy, believe me

Need no more questions
Maybes are mights
Darkness descends, run out of light
When you go blind
You get second sight
The deeper you dive
The greater the heights

So don't dry your eyes
Or say it's alright
Life is hard
It's a fight
Even if she kissed your cheek
Still the days become weeks
No rewind
No repeats
As the days become weeks
No remind
No repeats
Days, nights, wrongs, rights, earthbound starlight

Now playing: Duncan Sheik - Earthbound Starlight
via FoxyTunes

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