Tag Archives: singularity

Launching CELEBRITY: Videos, Mythology and Privacy in the Digital Age

Fundraising website Kickstarter offers a great way for independent artists to find ways of funding their projects, but a peppy promo video is required. And while I’m extremely excited and enthusiastic about the idea of producing “Celebrity: The Meltdown Monologues” as part of the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival… how can I put this…I’m extremely uncomfortable appearing on camera.

Luckily, I was still able to create a sharp, snappy pitch video without actually appearing in it (check it out at the Kickstarter page), but the process gave me another occasion to think about the ideas behind “Celebrity: The Meltdown Monologues.” Some people are natural performers, they love receiving attention, and they’re happy to be documented or photographed or filmed. Many of those people aspire to become performers.

Increasingly, they aspire to celebrity.

In his article The Irresistible Charlie Sheen Slate’s Jacob Weisberg questions why, as a society, we’re so obsessed with celebs that their actions inspire screaming fans and their meltdowns inspire us to pay close attention:

“At a deeper level, celebrities may serve as surrogates for gods or heroes. [my emphasis] Not long ago, I reread The Odyssey and was struck by how much Homer’s gods resembled tabloid stars. Self-centered and vain, they go on drunken rampages, cheat on their partners, break promises, and demand constant adoration. The big difference is that the Greeks held them in awe, as opposed to the mixture of awe and contempt with which we regard most celebs. Because celebrities arrived during the early part of the 20th century, it is natural to suspect they may have filled the gap left by something that went away around the same time. In his 1962 book The Image, the historian Daniel Boorstin argues that celebrities replaced heroes. (It was Boorstin, not Andy Warhol, who came up with the idea that a celebrity was someone famous for being famous, or as he put it, “a person who is known for his well-knownness”). But because celebrities are mere projections of ourselves, Boorstin argues, the effort to fill the heroic void with them is doomed to frustration.”

Weisberg’s analysis is insightful in how it contextualizes pop culture’s ever-encroaching occupation of our collective mental real estate. Do human beings need heroes? In their absence, are we willing to accept celebrities? And what happens when a society holds its “heroes” in contempt?

From the perspective of someone who is watching the world change at a rate that makes a comprehensive understanding of current events almost impossible, I’m also intrigued by what celebs, these individuals who live in the pressure-cooker of the continuous spotlight, can tell us about the ways we might react as our own lives become ever more documented and documentable.

So far, “Celebrity: The Meltdown Monologues” includes pieces inspired by Charlie Sheen, Christian Bale, and Michael Cera – whose “Youth in Revolt” meltdown seemed barely a blip on the radar. More meltdowns are on the way. Already, I’ve noticed ways in which these celebs’ meltdowns can be reworked and re-contextualized, and how even watching an entire rant all the way through – rather than just hearing the “sound bites” that are clipped and run over and over again on TMZ – can shed new light on the issues above.

As always, if you’re interested in the above ideas and want to get a closer look at the creative process that’s bringing “Celebrity: The Meltdown Monologues” to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, please check out our Kickstarter page and think about helping fund the project – and taking part via this blog, our page, the exclusive backer updates, and our Twitter account (@CelebMeltdowns) in this crowd-sourced work of appropriated material.