November 29, 2020

The Fame Monster

Kendra Hicks is a senior journalism major and staff writer for The Journal

When I was 13, I wanted to be a pediatrician. I also wanted to be in Destiny’s Child. I didn’t care that the three were in their late teens and early 20s. I just knew, in my mind, if Kelly or Michelle (never Beyoncé) ever got sick, I could step in. My favorite show at the time was MTV’s “Total Request Live (TRL).” I used to rush home from the school bus stop to watch my favorite artists perform, and see where their videos would land on the countdown. Eleven years later, TRL is off the air, Destiny’s Child has broken up (twice) and a new generation of 13-year-old kids isn’t watching MTV to see their favorite artists or actors talk about their latest work. They don’t emulate rock stars or actors, and they don’t emulate talent. The technology generation doesn’t want to be famous for any specific reason. They want to be famous for being famous. In a study conducted by UCLA, kids from ages 9 to 15 held fame as their No. 1 value. Financial success and physical fitness are also high on the list. This is a big change from 1997, when fame ranked No. 15 on a list of important values. Most preteens and teenagers are shallow, but this is a whole new level. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to fame, but aspiring to only fame and not the profession or work that comes with it is absurd. Working hard to achieve fame for a particular talent or passion doesn’t seem to exist anymore. In high school, we laughed at guys who said they wanted to be rappers and didn’t aspire to be anything else because “school wasn’t for them.” Looking back, I still believe in having a plan B, but at least they were aspiring to work for something. Now, these same guys talk about “blowing up,” or “making it big,” but it’s never clear what they are doing to get big. Preteens’ and teenagers’ favorite shows don’t involve actors or musical artists anymore. They involve everyday people living in “real situations.” Some of the top shows they are watching on TV right now are “Jersey Shore,” “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “The Bad Girls Club” and “16 and Pregnant.” None of these shows feature people who have any type of talent. They exist only to feature “wacky” people in real situations. I will never understand why a 14-year-old girl would look up to Kim Kardashian. The only reason why she and her family got a show is because her ex-boyfriend sold the sex tape they made together to a porn production company. Talk about setting an example, right? The show exemplifying “famous for being famous” must be “Jersey Shore.” I have tried to watch this show, but was afraid I might lose brain cells. The frightening thing is how much money the cast is raking in just to be followed around with cameras as they drink. In season three, the cast was making $30,000 an episode. They are making the same salary as some Disney Channel kids who have their own TV shows. At least the Disney kids are acting; the Shore crew has a break down the moment they have to memorize lines. The genius of the show is the personal marketing of Snooki and Pauly D. Snooki has “written” two books, sells house shoes and T-shirts on her website, and is featured in commercials. She’s even made the cover of Rolling Stone. Pauly D was already a DJ, but the exposure of the show led him to become one of the opening acts for Britney Spears’ Femme Fatale Tour. As long as MTV keeps deciding to air programming that glorifies people for being famous instead of talented, people will be addicted to fame. If network TV picks up more reality shows based on egocentrism, instead of sitcoms and dramas based on stories, the technology generation will continue wanting to be famous for being famous. Or maybe I should just give in and sign up for a reality show myself. Afterall, I do have student loans to pay.

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