I have been doing comedy for over 4 years. Prior to that I spent 6 years as a DJ (on radio and in clubs). While I was doing things that I loved, and that alone should be enough reason to do them, some part of me wanted to get famous. Fame is really a strange thing, it makes a man take things over. It lets him loose, hard to swallow. And puts you there where things are hollow. Ok, that was stupid. But it is amazing what lengths people go to to try and get famous (see early episodes of So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol).
I was watching a documentary today, Teenage Paparazzi, about, well, you guessed it. In it, there was a study by Duke University mentioned that showed that monkeys will forgo a fruit juice treat in order to stare at images of alpha monkeys or female perinea (a scientific word for “lovebox”).
The pictures of a female “perineum” and low-status face are shown. I know what you’re thinking, that macaque face looks like a total loser (and yes, I should probably change my blog from G-rated to X with this monkey porn I’ve put on). But, I don’t blame the monkey for staring at the perineum (not that that is my cup of tea).
Nevertheless, this study raises an interesting point. As an animal, we are as ingrained to read US Weekly as much as we are to stare at porn. That makes my grocery checkout reading that much creepier.
Why do we gawk at celebrities? I used to believe that it was because of desire people had to live vicariously through them – mansions in Beverly Hills, giant pool, penthouse apartment, Rolls Royce, what’s not to like? But that is not the reason. We admire celebrities because they are the figureheads of our society.
We have one-way social connections with celebrities, which is why we feel comfortable going up to them and asking for their autograph or to take a picture with them. How many times have you ever asked a random person for an autograph or photo with them? If not for a book, TV show, movie, or album that they made, you would have no connection to them. In reality, you don’t know anything about them, and they have no clue who you are, other than a weirdo.
The paper concludes certain images guide adaptive social behavior. Monkeys can relate to other monkeys by saying “Oh my gosh Becky, check out that perineum! It is so big!” Or by saying “that monkey face is such a loser!”, or “boy is that monkey face dominant, right?” Famous people serve as either heroes or trainwrecks. We use heroes to serve as our role models, and trainwrecks to exemplify how not to behave in society.
Ultimately, the pursuit of fame goes hand-in-hand with the evolutionary desire for leadership. People who want to be famous desire the adulation that a leader gets, but do not want to bear the responsibility necessary to be a leader. It’s sort of like being in Congress.
So, when you think with disgust about the “Real Housewives”, Kardashians, Lohans, Hiltons, etc. and wonder why are they famous, it’s because we need them. They are famous because we need heroes to look up to, and trainwrecks to think we are better than. Since we live in a world without heroes, we’re all settling on trainwrecks.