Jan 15, 2005

A seat at the Popular Table.

Walking down Market Street last week, I noticed a billboard on the side of a Muni bus that advertised the season premier of "Alias". As Jennifer Garner's slightly flushed face passed by, I started thinking about Ben Affleck. (Horrors of horrors, I know.) Somewhere I had heard that the two of them had started dating. Then I pondered his relationship with the other Jennifer and how that whole situation imploded (like we didn’t see that coming), which led illogically to Brad and yet another Jen, and another failed relationship.

Jennifer and Ben I. Jennifer and Ben II. Brad and Jennifer. (What is it with that name?) Ashton and Demi. Bruce and Demi. A bevy of beautiful women sucked dry of their life force by that vampire Lenny Kravitz. Why do I know about these couples? And why, on some internal level, do I even care?

Our fascination with celebrities has been on the journalistic hot list for quite some time now, and I’m sure that more than a few exceedingly well read and perhaps well paid members of the Academy have produced intellectually scintillating tomes on the subject, managing just barely hide their contempt for the Masses and their own love of popular culture and fame.

For my part, I have a simple explanation, one that takes into account three basic facts about the affliction:

1) That we're apt to project our own dissatisfaction onto the lives of others
2) That the 8 pm broadcast of “Yet Another Boozy, Slutty Heiress” helps further anesthetize us from the snake pit of social anxiety that is our day-to-day life
3) That we bought into this kind behavior long before we were able to buy cable, flat screen TVs or subscribe to Cosmo, People or Sports Illustrated.


Think about it for a second. Travel back in time to those days of misplaced hormonal energy, na├»ve searches for self-expression and the facial blemish. Haven’t we just traded one set of social groups for another? Haven’t the Burnouts, the Jocks, the 4-H'ers, the Band People, the Nerds, the Yearbook Staff, the Student Government and the Drama Crowd (the one group I really wish I’d hung with) simply been replaced by the Yuppies, the Dinks, the Believers, the NeoCons, the Weekend Warriors, the Ethnics, the Convicts, the Lawyers, the Tradesmen, the Liberals, etc.? Aren’t we all still simply fighting for that prime piece of real estate on the Quad of Life?

Back in my high school we had Franz and Kitty, Franz and Randy, Mark and Michelle, Dave and Shannon. They copped the gossip, they hit the headlines, they had the big break-ups in between becoming Homecoming Royalty, making big plays or starting new fashion trends. The rest of us simply trudged along in our run-of-the-mill heartbreaks, our second-tier group parties, our normal-size pressures and dreams. Or so we thought.

The truth of the matter is that all of us shared a life of great intensity—and we still do. The fascination with stars can act as a harmless diversion, but it can also reinforce the idea that we’re less than. And that’s only true if we accept rules and value systems designed to keep us forever reaching for the unreachable. So, screw the Popular Table. Being human is credential enough to occupy space in this universe. Based on the evident hassles of being famous, I have no doubt that all three Jennifers, Ben, Brad and even Bruce often long for our relatively peaceful anonymity.


Tim Rickards said...

Wow, Tim. Great start to your blog! Whew! You should have a syndication deal!

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

in high school I was a nerd. Now I'm a liberal yuppie. did I regress or progress? I'd like to see some sort of scatter-graph regression analysis showing the links between Tim's high school and post-school labels.

I'll lay 5-2 odds that you won't find a drama school/neo-con or 4-H/liberal combo.

Tim Rickards said...

Scatter-graph regression analysis? Provide educational links, please!

Actually, I don't think a 4-H/Liberal is that far out of the question...kinda like an organic farmer. And NeoCons are the best actors in politics today--such convincing fear, awesome umbrage and plainly false communion with the common person.