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Jewish World Review
Jan. 29, 2009
/ 4 Shevat 5769
NOW STARRING ... EVERYBODY!
Television fans were no doubt thrilled when one of the nation's longest-running reality shows returned to the air, exposing viewers once again to the now-familiar spectacle of a parade of eager hopefuls with dreams of the big time giving it their all for a panel of preening judges who, after listening to each performance, deliver verdicts like the gods on Olympus about whether the aspirants should move on to the "next round."
Of course, savvy readers have already concluded that I can only be talking about one thing: the ongoing senate confirmation hearings for Barack Obama's cabinet nominees. Watching these proceedings, one can't help but wonder what the point of this tedious exercise is. Part of the problem is that United States Senators seem congenitally incapable of asking a simple, straightforward question. Before inquiring about something as simple as, say, what time it is, a senator apparently must first deliver a lengthy dissertation on the history of the sun dial, introduce into the Congressional Record a list of key advancements in watchmaking technology over the centuries and then offer personal thoughts on the meaning behind the Chambers Brothers' hit song "Time Has Come Today." Why, did you know that in 1977, senators spent an entire three-month Congressional session playing a single, never-concluded game of 20 Questions (the correct answer that eluded the senators was "The Doobie Brothers")?
As a result, these hearings become tests of endurance for the potential appointees. I guess the point is that if a candidate can sit, blank-stared, through the seemingly endless monotony of senatorial pontificating, rousing from a stupor only to respond to the occasional actual question with vague, unhelpful non-answers, he or she is deemed qualified for government work.
Watching the hearings at home, one can't help but wonder why the cabinet hopefuls even bother. The answer, of course, is likely the same reason anyone else goes on a reality show: they want to be famous. Face it, prior to his senate confirmation hearings, now- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was pretty much a nobody. But now, thanks to his confirmation hearings, a broad swath of the American populace knows what a shameless tax cheat he is. Congratulations, Mr. Geithner, you've officially arrived!
In fact, there may be no more distinguishing feature of American life in the 21st century than the near universal desire for fame. We've all been through the checkout aisle at the supermarket and spotted the cover of a magazine with a name like "Fat Celebrity Weekly" with a blown up paparazzi photo of an aging actress' thighs and an arrow pointing to a bulging patch of cellulite with an accompanying caption like "Cottage cheese? No thanks," says Kirstie Alley, "I've already got plenty!" Seeing such glowing treatment of our nation's cherished celebrities, who hasn't enviously wondered, "Why not me too?"
There is, however, a downside to fame that has been well documented in movies like "Walk The Line" about Johnny Cash, the Ray Charles biopic "Ray" and, of course, "Nasty Habit: Exposing The Sordid Untold Story of Mother Teresa." And even when they're not completely destroyed by fame, celebrities nevertheless seem driven to engage in erratic and inexplicable behavior, whether drunkenly telling off arresting police officers, neglecting to wear undergarments while out in public or agreeing to star in movies like Gigli.
These very real concerns notwithstanding, today the desire for celebrity not only remains stronger than ever, but there is an increasingly widespread belief, particularly among young people, that they will all inevitably achieve fame. According to a recent survey, when asked by their high school teachers whether they thought they would be famous one day, a whopping 83 percent of the respondents answered, "Is this going to be on the test?" So at least some things haven't changed much.
But this pervasive desire for celebrity runs up against the statistical fact that not everyone can be famous. Despite the oft-quoted prediction from the late artist Andy Warhol that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes, based on the current population figures and the estimated growth rate of reality television, experts believe that, at best, in the future celebrity status will likely be limited to just 60 percent of the public.
As for the other 40 percent, not to worry. All those famous people will still need the rest of us to fill out crucial supporting roles like agent, publicist, bodyguard, chef, dog walker, umbrella holder and adoptive African orphans.
But with celebrity a likelihood for so many, it behooves all of us to prepare for this eventuality. My advice: get busy stocking up on underwear, paying all your back taxes and for god's sake, America, do something about those thighs already!
JWR contributor Malcolm Fleschner is a humor columnist for The DC Examiner. Let him know what you think by clicking here.
01/15/09: You know the type
01/08/09: Just in time, here comes 2009
11/20/08: Hotels go for the green
11/06/08: Something does not compute
10/30/08: Early adopters tech their chances
10/21/08: Cyberspace invaders
10/21/08: Keeping up disappearances
09/17/08: Victims of math hysteria
08/07/08: My newfound sense of self (promotion)
06/24/08: Getting the brand back together
05/29/08: Phrased and confused
05/13/08: Take this job and love it
04/17/08: News you can (re)use
04/02/08: Commercial (over)load
02/20/08: An overdose of reality
02/14/08: A developing situation
01/30/08: I can tech it or leave it
01/02/08: Confessions of a coke addict
01/02/08: Our bills are due
12/13/07: Going (to lunch) once, going twice…
11/28/07: Out with the old
11/06/07: My latest pet project
11/06/07: Can't tune it out
10/23/07: Something special in the hair
09/12/07: Can I have your attention, please?
09/12/07: Houston, we have an image problem
08/21/07: In the heat of fashion
08/09/07: Let's get in the game
06/13/07: You gonna eat that?
05/08/07: That's disinter-tainment
05/02/07:You Are (not) Getting Sleepy...
04/18/07: No time like Father Time
03/15/07: Deface the Nation
03/08/07: More gifts? You shouldn't have
02/22/07: Relationships can be such a chore
12/05/06: Who's calling the shots?
11/09/06: I'm taking selling to a whole new level
10/27/06: Some skills are beyond repair
10/18/06: You can't tech it with you
10/04/06: Award to the wise
08/24/06: Phrased and Confused
08/09/06: We're Gonna Party Like it's $19.99
07/19/06: Just Singing in the Brain
05/24/06: Who says you can't go home again?
05/11/06: When nightly news stories go off script
04/26/06: Cents and sensibility: A thought for your pennies
03/16/06: The day the Muzak died
02/23/06: Checkbook diplomacy begins at home
02/15/06: Today's toys: Where learning means earning
© 2006, Malcolm Fleschner