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On the Origin of Celebrity (2013) (nautil.us)
42 points by dnetesn on Nov 16, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments



»We all feel the magnetic pull of celebrities—we track them, know their net worth, their tastes in furniture, the absurd names of their pets and children.«

No, I don't at all. Am I kind of a statistical outliner? I like their movies and their music, but I could not care less how they dress, what they earn or with whom they end up in bed. I always thought that interest in kings and queens and celebrities is something for teens or bored housewives. Now I need some statistics...


I do not consider them any different than normal people. It's not an opinion created out of jealousy, anti-interest, or anything remotely connected to the status they are given by pop-culture.

I don't know if it is part of my philosophy of how I imagine most people live their lives in the 'information age' where it is as easy to voyeur into a normal person's life as it is a celebrities. I think that composes part of it.

But largely, they don't have actual value to me by virtue of the frequency of which their name appears in print alone. They do the same thing that any other person would do. They live, breathe, eat, sleep, socially engage, connect, disconnect, and do a job.

People don't often realize how much influence their environment has on them, their paths in life, their sense of self, their self direction, their opinions, thoughts and ideas.

The people I consider valuable are the ones that consistently strive to exceed the boundaries imposed on them by the limitations of contemporary culture. The people I consider valuable don't look at their past as a legacy or an attachment for which to cling to in order to maintain status, but they look at the present as if they are continuously starting at the beginning.

I try to live that way, because I find that keeps me humble, receptive to learning, and always questioning the things I think I know or understand. The introductory story sounds like something that would either make me fall asleep or hide in a corner due to social anxiety. I'd much rather being hacking away at a computer, or having interesting conversations, than having a 'party' and swapping out all the people I love in my life for brand names that represent weird composites of PR engineered "people".

These are people in real life, but the media distortion is an image. The image is different than the person. I don't know them as a person and I can't know the person through the image. So why care? That image shares more similarity with 1,000 anonymous comments on a forum than it does with a real person. It's an artificial construct.


"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."

(This quote has often been attributed to Hyman Rickover, but he apparently did not claim authorship of it[0].)

[0] http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Hyman_G._Rickover#Misattributed


> "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."

Interesting quote, but I think it unfairly judges people who are not "like you". Discussing people, like celebrities, is like discussing the weather. It's a lowest common denominator that you fall back to when you have difficulty connecting or communicating with another person.

It's better to think of ideas, events, people, and weather as a way to measure the quality of connection and communication you are having with someone. (You can also start a conversation with a "bottom up" strategy by starting with weather, or people, and working your way up.)


I don't find that quote to be really all that clever. No person is immune to discussing any of these things in any given conversation, no matter how great or small the mind. I think the original author of the quote was either misquoted or trying too hard to be pithy.


You are perhaps not an outlier in the HN crowd, but gossip is popular. Very popular.

* online: TMZ is ranked 125th most visited in the US by Alexa, ahead of webmd, drudge report, and even gmail

* on TV: did you know TMZ has its own late night television show? Not to mention Access Hollywood and I'm sure a few I'm forgetting

* even in print: many publications have stopped printing, but not Star, the Enquirer, and similar ones. You can still pick them up at the checkout line in most US grocery stores.


I can't remember the man's name now, but I once read an interview with a NYT gossip reporter who worked up until the 1950s. He said (and I'm paraphrasing from memory), "gossip is rich people dealing with problems that money can't solve."

Apparently the modern incarnation of gossip reporting took shape during the Great Depression, and was a way to humanize people whose fortune and fame made their lives seem wholly separate from their fan base. Gossip permits a person to live vicariously through the celebrity, and creates the illusion of something more inclusive than a simple producer:consumer relationship.


Even on HN, the cult of personality is very noticeable, it's just that we care about different celebrities and different aspects of their lives.


Thou shall not worship idols.


The title does not reflect how good the article is. I thought it was very interesting, and I also found the next article on Indianapolis interesting also.


I've talked with a couple Hollywood celebrities in real life. Once you get past the golly gee effect (which I was annoyed to discover in myself) they are quite ordinary people.


In case you were wondering about the (more) important people mentioned in the article whose names you didn't recognize, and also wondered about their mentioned research...

  Robert Sapolsky, Stanford, biology and neurology, (author)
https://med.stanford.edu/profiles/robert-sapolsky

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Sapolsky

  Nicholas Rule, University of Toronto, Psychology
http://www.uc.utoronto.ca/nick-rule

  Lotte Thomsen, Harvard, Psychology
http://projects.iq.harvard.edu/sidaniuslab/people/lottw-thom...

http://harvard.academia.edu/LotteThomsen

http://www.sv.uio.no/psi/english/people/aca/lottetho/index.h...

  Caroline Zink, Lieber Institute for Brain Development
http://www.libd.org/contact/staff-directory/91-caroline-zink

  Robin Dunbar, Oxford, Anthropologist, (famous for the "Dunbar Number")
http://senrg.psy.ox.ac.uk/people/r_dunbar.html

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Dunbar

http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/books/how_many_friends.html

  Abigail A. Marsh, Georgetown University, Psychology
http://explore.georgetown.edu/people/aam72/

  Christopher Boehm, University of Southern California (USC), Anthropologist
http://dornsife.usc.edu/cf/faculty-and-staff/faculty.cfm?pid...

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origins_of_society


In a 20/20 special from long ago, Jerry Seinfeld was going off in brilliant, comedic tangents. One thing he said about Julia Roberts: "Julia Roberts. Where would she be without her vulnerability?"

I think he also said that most Hollywood actresses spend their lifetime preparing for their most important role: being a Hollywood star.


I ran into Roberts and her entourage once in Venice. Ridiculous hubbub. I was nearly pushed into the canal.


What's up with Americans and Julia Roberts? I don't even find her attractive.


The article mentioned Julia Roberts just as an example, Americans are obsessed with many actresses.

However, if you are looking for a discussion for the actual merits of the said actress, this may not be the right forum for that discussion.




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