Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

One of the best compliments I can pay a book is that it sticks with me and comes to mind often as I interact with life. Reading Fame Junkies was sometimes disturbing, always revealing, and it has stuck with me. I am not a fan of pop culture to begin with. I have the same problems with it many people do: the rampant consumerism, the inherent shallowness of it all, the oversimplification of necessarily deep concepts, and the outright narcissism. But this book helped me see it all on another level.

The book is split into three basic “takes” on the culture of fame, each of which is full of enlightening interviews, anecdotes, studies, and commentary. It is hard to say I was impressed by one part more than the others, but I continue to think through the act of giving up a “normal” life and career to become an assistant to a star. Halpern does a great job of telling some of those stories and allowing the reader to hear from their own mouths why assistants do what they do.

I have since quit watching any form of celebrity TV. I used to unwind from time to time with a little Leno or Letterman, but now all I see is narcissism. And not just on the part of the “stars” – it is the cash currency of the world of fame. If self-absorption disappeared and humility reigned, well, things would be different for the world of TV, print, and movie media.

In that vein, Fame Junkies is a modern tale of the consequences of meaninglessness and vice. The people represented in the book are nice and normal people (for the most part), and they are presented fairly by Halpern, but theirs are cautionary tales. Because their lives seem to lack any over-arching meaning, they seek for it through the fleeting attention paid to them by others. Or in other cases, they live their lives vicariously through the famous.

These are among the morality tales of our culture. Read them and learn.

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