News & Insights 25 March 2009

Fame for fame’s sake…?

The internet is awash with articles about the death of Jade Goody, notorious entrepreneur and former Big Brother phenomenon. Never before has somebody experienced a gradual death quite so publicly – and inspired such a storm of media attention and public debate in the process.

Whilst Jade wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, her death was undeniably tragic. However, I can’t help but feel that there’s something terribly crass about the whole affair. The press are patting themselves on the back for “creating” her and, for the most part, transparently ignoring the fact that they spent most of their column inches slagging her off. Huge swathes of the general public are paralysed by an apoplexy of hysteria over somebody they have never met. Goody’s wedding was televised a couple of weeks ago and a million people tuned in. What does this all mean? What does it say about our relationship with the media and with the people it portrays?

You can’t help but admire Goody for her skillful manipulation of the press; however, if she can be considered the puppet-master controlling the papers, the papers can in turn be considered the puppet-masters wielding our strings. Ultimately, we’re the schmucks getting screwed at the bottom of the food chain. We are absolutely lapping it up and, as long as we continue to do this, the tabloids will continue to churn it out. 

Whereas back in the good old days celebrities were recognised and celebrated for a specific talent, nowadays they have morphed into unimaginative circus freakshows, kept afloat by a paparazzi interested almost exclusively in getting pictures of people flashing their pants. Paris Hilton, Jordan, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson – for me, these people are “Notorieties”, not “Celebrities”. The old maxim that “all publicity is good publicity” is truer now than ever. For instance, there was a time when being photographed staggering drunk out of a taxi into a strip-club would have ruined a celebrity’s career. Now it creates that career. Fame breeds fame for fame’s sake.

This, to me, suggests that the whole notion of celebrity is on the verge of eating itself. And how long can a species which cannibalises its own young survive?

Chris Lightyear

ps. this Sunday 29 March I become a “celebrity” myself when I return to my theatre roots to perform alongside a cast including supermodel Anne Diamond, Big Brother’s Nikki Grahame and supermodel Jen Hunter at the launch of Body Gossip. Click here to read more!

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