What is Celebrity?

Or perhaps a more apt title would be Who is a Celebrity?  It used to be an easy question to answer – there was a simple alphabet of celebs – with the A listers at the top and the Z listers way down below.  The A listers were the movie stars, the Hollywood movers and shakers and all celebrity flowed from them, everyone on the celebrity bandwagon knew that they were the ones to emulate, it was their stardom that was ultimately sought.  

After the A listers came everyone else, from successful TV actors and personalities, right down to a has been who had a small part in a movie once and who then spent the rest of their lives attempting to prove to anyone who would listen that they really were a celebrity and that turning on Little Bocking’s Christmas lights was proof of this.

I have decided I am well placed to write this article, because I am spectacularly unimpressed by celebrity of any type for any reason.  I am part of that weird group of people who are not sure why we pop someone on a pedestal simply due to the fact that they can say words in the right sequence whilst pretending to be someone else, or that their facial features, and bodily attributes are arranged in such a way as to be pleasing to our eyes, even a musician whose music I adore;  I can love their music and appreciate them for it, but I am not terribly interested in the person behind it.   That said – I do understand the need for and the desire to pop people on pedestals.

But things are changing, and have been doing so for some time now, the world of celebrity isn’t what it used to be and celebrity is measured in so many different ways by so many different people.

The top of the tree though perhaps hasn’t actually changed much – the A listers are still there safely ensconced in their mega rich, mega pampered, mega removed from reality lives.  But it is those who are beneath them where the changes are most evident.

The internet has for countless millions of us expanded our worlds and horizons in ways in which we couldn’t have possibly seen coming, but it has also created its own form of celebrity, and often that celebrity status lives within its own bubble.  The same could of course have always been said about those celebrities whose fame spreads no further than their country.  However the bubbles that internet celebrities inhabit are often of a worldwide spread, they are however made up of just those people for have found them, or identify with them.  There can be an assumption made that everyone knows of or has watched the YouTube channels you subscribe to, that the “communities” that these internet celebrities talk of with the confidence of ownership are vast and far reaching, when in fact they may actually be a small polarised, but very vocal group of people.

Of course it is not just the internet celebrity phenomena that has irrevocably changed the map of celebrity, that almost mould like creeping scourge that is Reality TV has also played its part in ensuring that celebrity will never again be what it was.  For those prepared to bare their souls, lives and often their body parts on screen for us all to watch and dissect, there awaits a dubious sort of celebrity – that of the reality TV star.  Grabbing the idea that everyone is due their 15 minutes of fame with both hands and running like the clappers with it, Reality TV and those who appear in it have taken over our TV screens and created a whole new class of celebrity, one in which talent or intelligence plays little or no part, in fact it could be argued that those whose IQ is sufficiently compromised enough for any stupid suggestion made by a clever director to sound like a good idea are ultimately the most successful. After all it’s rather boring to watch a sensible well balanced person make reasoned decisions, it is far more ‘fun’ to watch a slightly unhinged verbally lacking person making a total hash-up of it!

Within the Reality TV star world there are those who are at the top of the tree for whom money, fame and influence has come knocking (think Kardashians), with everyone else clamouring for a piece of the pie.   Mainstream celebrity has embraced some of these Reality TV stars to such an extent that they are now seen as bona fide A listers in their own right, without the acting, musical or other talent that would have been demanded just a few years ago.  Marriages and collaborations, along with the ever and all-pervading social media have fooled us into believing that these people deserve their status and their influence.  A generation of young people are growing up believing just “being famous” (and therefore a celebrity) is ok and to be strived for.

I admit to admiring some internet celebrities, I find the concept of raising your middle finger up to the “establishment” (whatever and whoever that may be) and saying “bugger you I will just do it” is something which does have some merit to it.  However, one small trawl of YouTube reveals a shocking number of people who believe that “record some shit, however shit you like”, put it on YouTube and they will come!   

I am no longer part of what would have been called the younger generation (I haven’t hit 40 yet, so I can still just about remember my yoof), and am very aware that the internet and YouTube is where many of our young people are heading to find their role models and celebrities.  People who their parents will have never heard of are the ones doing the influencing, communities of like-minded people who post and comment, love and hate and generally become part of something and if there is one thing I do remember from my yoof, it is that being part of something was very important. 

So what unifies all of these new breeds of celebrity?  Apart from the arenas of social media and the internet that were not there to the same extent 10 years ago?  What is it about Reality TV stars and internet celebrities which appeal so much (if we ignore that some are very talented/funny/intelligent). 

I believe where celebrity has changed is that it is no longer just about a talent and some crappy pap pics or a wedding sold to Hello, nope we want it all – we want every detail of life, not just what someone is wearing, but where they bought it from, when and how much.  Not just that someone has been happily married to……… but we want the proposal, the wedding, the stress, the trauma, the divorce, the tears, the happy, the sad.   Not just that…………….has had a baby; but details of the conception, the pregnancy, the birth, pictures, pictures, details details, tears, laughter, pain.

And that is what both reality TV stars and internet celebrities give us – they open their lives up and like the greedy little consumers we all are, we lap it up – we get to see their homes, their rooms, their cookers, their beds, their husbands/wives, children, dogs, cats, aunts and uncles etc.  We see real tears and laughter,  hear long convoluted stories of love and heart aches.  See marriages, births and even funerals, know opinions and events, share birthdays and anniversaries.  No longer are dramas just written and acted, these people give up their lives in return for not working in a factory 12 hours a day.

The most successful internet celebrities and reality TV stars are those that give us the most, those who share everything who open up every part of their world, taking their camera along to film each moment, pimping out spouses and children to make a little more cash, and of course shamelessly promoting whatever company has decided their influence is worth buying, and these people are influencers, they influence those in their community and make their living from ensuring those people stay interested and engaged. 

Whilst the above may sound negative (and much of it is), I am far more likely to be interested in what an internet celebrity has to say than a boring ole actor, who is overpaid, over-feted and under talented.  However we should perhaps be careful, be careful that in the clamour for the real and the uncensored that we are not taking advantage of the vulnerable, giving the feckless too much of a voice and allowing our children to grow up in a world where it is the norm to sit in front of a camera and spill out your innermost thoughts and opinions and expect the world to watch!