Welcome to Garbage Day, my weekly love letter to Monday brain fog. It’s an attempt to pull together some smaller ideas that might not warrant their own entries but, sewn together, they can make some kind of Frankenpost. It’s dirty, it’s ugly, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
This week I only have a couple of things bouncing around in my head, likely owing to some choppy sleep last night. One of the major issues that I’ve been considering is the cult of celebrity in America and what it means; the status that it’s achieved, and the underlying psychological causes. It’s been relevant to me for a few reasons; the major one is that, as I work the promotional angle for my book and start getting this new career off the ground, I’m catching the tiniest of glimpses about what it means to be a public figure.
Now I would never dare to suggest that my small following or having an unpublished book somehow puts me anywhere close to the level of a true “celebrity”. That would just be delusional thinking. It’s not what I’m talking about anyway. What I mean is that presenting my work in a public forum – talking about my writing process – interacting with readers, all of it is starting to paint a picture for me of what it’s like for someone who’s truly famous. You’re opening up a whole section of your life to criticism, and in some instances they are very personal, vulnerable parts of your life.
It’s been quite the paradigm shift for my worldview. There is so much about American society that is built to designate celebrities and public figures as “the other” – tabloids, Entertainment Tonight, E!, etc. They show these people as somehow more than human. As I’ve chased this dream, I’ve come around to understanding that while I knew on an intellectual level that these were just people, not gods of any kind, I didn’t get that emotionally. I’m gaining insight on how these are just people who have worked hard to achieve a dream, and are now having to pay a heavy price for daring to do such a thing.
One of those prices is changing relationships with old friends. They find people calling them sellouts (yes, I have had that happen already). People angry with them for changing the parameters. Told that they don’t have the right to an opinion the same as anyone else because they’ve dared to chase that dream and achieve some success – I’ve seen this happen on Twitter.
I’ve done a lot of reading on how to interact with the public as you become more of a public figure. I know the rules. I’m conditioning myself now as I interact with more and more people to prepare myself for if I get lucky enough to have even more of the public eye upon me. I know that the system is unfair. I’m getting some feel for what it might be like for a person whose every move is watched and dissected, if only a little bit.
But aside from all that, I’ve also been reading up on hoarding lately and something has clicked there on the kind of mentality that creates the cult of celebrity. Like I said, they’re held up as gods – revered, and denied the essence of their humanity. In this book, they talk about how hoarders and collectors imbue their “stuff” with an emotional essence that is aside from the utility of the item itself. The author cites an debate in his class between his students over the value of a shirt once worn by Jerry Seinfeld. Many of the students argued that this shirt somehow contained and conveyed the essence of the man. The shirt itself had magical qualities that surpassed its utilities.
I was a bit horrified to think of it from Seinfeld’s perspective, and it’s what brought me to the whole topic of celebrity in the first place. How much of the cult of celebrity is just people trying to pick up on that perceived magic or essence, bring it into their lives, and hope that it somehow elevates them? I mean, sure, talent and drive separate the Seinfelds into a different functional group, but it becomes very easy to lose sight of them as humans altogether and make them a magical tribe.
I’ve been taking notes as the topic grows in my head, and I think it’s the kernel of a future novel. Something to watch for in the future as it continues to grow.
Next topic, and somewhat related, I just wanted to express what a great time I’ve had networking with other writers, readers, and bloggers. Technically, it is doing business and part of trying to promote my book, but it’s just downright fun. I enjoy interacting with others, sharing ideas, and hearing others’ perspectives. To be able to do it on the large scale that something like Twitter offers these days is just phenomenal. If you’d told me when I was starting out back in the 80s that one day I would be able to network in this fashion, I would have thought you were crazy.
I mean, it took a long time for me to even meet another writer in real life outside of school. Even then, it was only a handful here or there. To meet other people who share this passion but have slightly different takes on it – it’s exciting. Like I said, it’s publicity, it’s PR, it’s marketing, it’s all of those things, but I guess I’m discovering that I enjoy those things. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I suppose that I might be disappointed to have others handling my PR.
Oh, and if you missed what I did this weekend, I have a new feature called Lazy Saturday that examines storytelling in video games. This past Saturday I took a look at the great game Bioshock as a positive example. I’m contemplating what to cover this coming weekend; possibly Dragon Age Origins, with a follow-up post on Dragon Age 2. In this way I could highlight good storytelling vs. very poor storytelling within the same franchise, but I’d like to see what other video game fans might want to see. Let me know.