The new class of celebrity - famous by being ordinary

 

TeenTimes Rosie PlunkettAs I stood at a bus stop one evening recently, I was struck by an unnerving insight into modern life. The advert in the bus shelter was from The Irish Times "We look at life, you live it" campaign and read: "Is celebrity now a career option?"

Beside me stood a woman in a suit, reading Heat magazine, unaffected by or unaware of the ad. Her magazine had a picture of a certain glamour model turned "celebrity" on the cover. Drastic as it may sound, I was disgusted.

Celebrity is a much-abused term these days. In times past, royalty and nobility were the only celebrities, and then, in the golden days of Hollywood, top-selling actors and actresses also merited the title. In the 1960s, rock'n'roll icons joined the list, along with contemporary artists.

How do we presume to place Audrey Hepburn or Elvis in the same category as Jade Goody? Well, the answer is, we don't.

Nowadays, those who are famous with good reason are referred to as "A-listers" or "icons". From Oscar-winning actors, to multi-platinum recording artists to philanthropists like Mother Teresa, there are still people who deserve to be publicly applauded. The difference is, there is now also a new type of fame.

"Clebs" (pronounced slebs) are people who are famous for being famous. Nobody can remember why we were interested in them in the first place, but their willingness to shamelessly promote their ability to do nothing is what keeps the public watching.

Why is it that we have this new class of fame, rewarding ordinary people for being ordinary? It used to be that society idolised their superiors. Now we have become so conceited that we no longer believe in having superiors.

Instead, we idolise anyone willing to humiliate themselves on live television. We have chosen to value image over substance, giving "celebrity status" to anyone looking for it.

There is even a prescribed career path for those looking for the route to celebrity (or "clebdom" as it is sometimes referred to). Go on a reality TV show, do something shocking or stupid, preferably involving alcohol, and when you emerge, get a makeover and start doing interviews for C-list magazines.

A few months down the line, go on another reality show, this time a "celebrity" version and following that, invite paparazzi to any event you go to.

Voilà, you have become a celebrity based wholly on your ability to eat disgusting creatures, sing off-key or sit around a house for 10 weeks.

It seems that to our society, what you represent is far more important than what you do.

To be an acclaimed celebrity, the only criteria are that you believe you are one, and act accordingly. Wear dark glasses and a trucker cap in public, complain about paparazzi ruining your "chance for a normal life", mix with other "clebs" and hope that your 15 seconds of fame will last long enough for you to buy a new car.

I am worried by my generation's obsession with image. It has created a monster in the form of "clebs", devaluing fame in all its guises.

Moreover, this over-emphasis on image haunts the lives of normal people, especially teenagers, who constantly feel too fat, too thin, too ugly or too poor to have worth. We as a society need to remember that what you portray should reflect what you do, not dictate it, and stop celebrating people for no reason other than appearance.

Is celebrity a career option? Yes. Should it be? Absolutely not.

Rosie Plunkett (16) is a fifth-year student in St Andrew's College, Booterstown, Co Dublin

Submissions from teenagers of 500-word articles are welcome to teentimes@irish-times.ie. Please include a phone number