Celebrities: The Cost of Fame
I often wonder what the life of a celebrity is like. No, I'm not talking about the limousines, private jets, entourages and endless shopping sprees. None of that interests me because I don't think it's the real truth. While the rich and famous appear to have it all, fame comes at a cost. Demanding schedules, interviews, appearances etc. amass satisfaction from agents and publicists because it confirms the popularity of their client, but it also alienates them from family and loved ones. You never hear how the families of celebrities experience fame because the top story on Entertainment Tonight isn't about the missed calls, demanding work schedules, distanced relationships, disgruntled friends, jealous siblings and worried parents. No one wants to read about THAT on Twitter.
Perhaps the most obvious cost of fame is the loss of privacy. Not only are celebrities subjected to invasive interviews and paparazzi, but so are their family members. When a person rises to fame and theirs becomes a household name, life changes not only for them but for everyone associated with them. Society constantly craves the latest information on actors, musicians, entertainers and public figures because we want to believe in the fairytale that is Hollywood. We follow celebrities on Twitter and tune into TMZ religiously because we can't get enough of them. There exists a sense of entitlement to the details of their lives because they're overexposed and we are desensitized. All the money and luxury in the world can't replace anonymity when you really want it and truly need it. I can't begin to understand the rage and fear a celebrity feels as they shield their young children from paparazzi. How frustrating it must be to then see those pictures publicized without your consent. Celebrities must feel powerless when they discover the full reaches of the internet and the extent it has on their privacy. Perhaps most disconcerting, it's not something they complain about because after all, any press is good press.
The entertainment industry demands a great deal of time from celebrities. Interviews, film shoots, press tours, public appearances, and awards shows all take up vast amounts of their time; time otherwise spent with their families. I imagine it would be overwhelming for a parent to watch their son or daughter rise to fame. Surely parents are filled with pride as the world realizes their son or daughter's talent. But for every up there exists a down. Family members feel alienated when they aren't able to reach their loved ones in person. Busy careers interfere with holidays, birthdays, graduations, etc. and can lead to years passing between familial visits in turn distancing family members even further from one another. Frustration, anger and sadness sneaks up on the most level-headed parent as they realize their celebrity child is suddenly too busy to come to the phone, or make an appearance at the annual family get-together. In order to fully appreciate the greatest joys this world has to offer, we must experience its darkest moments too.
There was a scene in the movie Funny People where the main character George Simmons, a well known comedian, was unable to fall asleep unless his personal assistant talked to him. Each time the assistant thought George was asleep he got up from his chair-only to have George awaken and ask him to stay and talk to him a little longer. That one scene was the catalyst for this post. Watching that scene made me pause and wonder what life for celebrities was like and how affected those around them. Can it really be that desperate and lonely? The movie has several scenes that touch on this theme but perhaps one of the most telling was the scene with George and his sister Lisa played by actress Nicol Paone. In the scene George Simmons believes he is ill and calls his estranged sister and asks her to meet with him. What follows is not a typical family reunion, but an angry and bitter confrontation between the two siblings. Lisa accuses George of choosing his success over maintaining a relationship with her and her children. Her anger is palpable and so is his guilt and shame.
Everyone loves a success story, and this is the thread that weaves Hollywood together. While families are proud of their loved one's successes they can also feel conflicted. While some celebrities are admired for their talent, skill and hard work; others are catapulted to fame because of their family name or some random reality television show appearance. In either case, while they enjoy their popularity and fifteen minutes of fame the rest of us are on the sidelines in a twisted heap of admiration and jealousy. Family members are no different and aren't immune to feelings of bitterness and jealousy. Human beings can be cruel; we want what we can't have. We envy them when they strut down the red carpet and laugh when they fall from the very pedestal we helped place them on. How many celebrities have been set up, betrayed and attacked by those closest to them?
Once the credits are over, the stadium empties out, the red carpet rolled up and the lights are dimmed celebrities get back to work on their next big project. But families are forced to get on with the business of everyday life. Time clocks are punched, children are reared, chores attended to and bills are paid. Far away from the lights and glamor of the Hollywood is the daily grind the rest of us call normal. Imagine how it would feel to live in the shadow of a famous relative and constantly be reminded of their financial achievements. Jealousy rears its ugly head as you as realize your family member earns more money with the completion of one project than you will realize in your entire lifetime. We are a society of the have and the have nots. After all, they don't call it fame and fortune for nothing.
As the Cyndi Lauper song goes, Money Changes Everything. There are countless stories of celebrities who rise to fame in Hollywood and find themselves living on the street only a few short years later. Money greases the wheels of the entertainment industry and at the end of the day it all comes down to profits. We are conditioned to believe that happiness can be bought and greed is the theme of the day in every corner of our society. The movie Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere was released in 1990 and was an instant hit at the box office. Women flocked to movie theaters in droves to get a glimpse of a modern day Cinderella fairytale. Critics however, were quick to point out the dangerous messages the storyline was giving audiences as was the case with Jim Emerson from Cinepad.com. The movie was a success because for 125 minutes regular people were transported into a surreal world of success and riches. It glamorized greed and glossed over prostitution all for the low, low price of a movie ticket and bag of popcorn. And we keep coming back for more.
Fame is a monster many celebrities find difficult to tame. The spoils of wealth, luxurious perks and endless attention can cause them to lose a foothold in reality. Fortunately, not all celebrities succumb to the pressures of Hollywood. While the learning curve for fame and fortune is a steep one, it can be conquered. Families rooted in tradition and culture find it easier to stay grounded through the difficult times. There's something to be said about remembering where you come from, and maintaining strong family ties is key to that. Families must make every effort to keep the channels of communication open especially during the busiest of careers, and so too must their famous loved ones. The difficult times are sure to come just as the joyous ones do and how we condition ourselves to respond will determine our fate: patience is the hand that helps us up during times of conflict, tolerance leads us away from the trickery of temptation, unconditional love guides us through the times we are uncertain of the roles we play, everlasting support helps forge the path of those we love. True happiness and success comes from making memories with the very people who raised you, who shared history with you, and who ultimately shaped you in to the person you are today. Without that, all the money and fame Hollywood has to offer is for nothing.