Never from Concentrate heads! It’s your boy, Hershal! The trusted stewards of your NFC content experience, the homies Rachit and Valentin, are letting me guest-post on this illustrious forum once again, to spit game, wax poetic, and hopefully not abscond meaningful conclusions about a topic that I often find myself feeling very conflicted by: fame.
There’s a common strain of thought amongst society’s cultural elitists, those who turn their nose up at reality stars like Kim Kardashian, where they question what skill it is these people possess that keeps them in the public eye.
“Why are we still talking about Kim Kardashian?! She doesn’t do anything!” they might say with manufactured vitriol, seemingly unaware of the palpable irony that questioning why we’re still talking about Kim Kardashian still undoubtedly constitutes talking about Kim Kardashian. It’s always struck me as somewhat of an obtuse question. What skill does she possess? It seems like such an outdated mode of thinking. Kim Kardashian’s skill is being famous. Kim Kardashian is better at being famous than most people are at doing whatever it is they’re best at doing. Consider, for example, a wood-worker who has spent 30 years painstakingly mastering his/her craft. Kim Kardashian is better at being famous than this person is at making oak cabinets. It’s not the most comfortable truth to acknowledge, but it’s undeniable.
Jokes aside, it’s not difficult to understand why these hypothetical pedants might be reluctant to accept the fact that fame and skill can now exist mutually exclusively. If we entangle fame with skill—be it art, punditry, commerce, athleticism, etc.—we can delude ourselves into thinking that the importance we assign to the rich and famous is based in something pure; perhaps a reverence of profound ability or an admiration of singular talent. Once this assumption is relaxed, however, we’re forced to reckon with the notion that maybe our relationship with celebrity is based in something much more toxic. Rolling Stone once tried to make an ill-conceived statement about this by putting a picture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston-Marathon terrorist, on its cover. Whatever proclamation it was trying to make was inevitably drowned out in a sea of outraged cries of, “Ooooooh. Way to be edgy, Rolling Stone. People are dead.”
I think we can learn a lot about society’s complicated relationship with fame by studying the way we interact with it on an individual level. As someone who harbours vague aspirations of achieving marginal recognition as a writer, I’m not exactly the fame-hungry megalomaniac who would be most qualified to comment on this issue, but I think I might be able to offer some insight regardless. A couple of years into this Godless pursuit, I’ve all but disabused myself of the notion that my motivations for doing so are pure. I don’t particularly enjoy the craft of writing (I’d go so far as to say that sometimes placing my head in a blender seems preferable), I don’t think I have vital ideas that need to be shared, and I don’t possess any sort of generational skill with the pen. What I do have is an incessant need to derive my self-worth from external validation. Sadly, I’ve digested just enough armchair-psychology throughout my life to understand that this is almost certainly a misguided approach. Trying to fill the well of imagined inadequacy through outside approval is a bit like trying to fill an actual well using a colander. At the risk of sounding like an insufferable motivational speaker, it is important to recognize that sustainable self-worth can only truly be derived from within.
Going back to the idea of fame, if you were to amplify whatever emotional maladjustment it is that possesses me to write (and then subtract some of the self-awareness that keeps me grounded) you’d probably be left with someone who aspires towards celebrity. I mean, what could possibly satiate one’s vacuous need for external recognition more effectively than literally being recognized every time they leave their house? It’s this same nagging feeling of inadequacy, I’d imagine, that explains why we put celebrities on such a pedestal. Celebrities are the closest thing to living proof that it is indeed possible to crowdsource one’s self-esteem.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. There are some celebrities for whom fame is just an inevitable byproduct of profound success in their field of choice—Elon Musk comes to mind—but I can’t help but be skeptical when people tell me that fame doesn’t factor into their decision to pursue an otherwise impractical artistic endeavor at all. Call me a cynic, but I find it much harder to believe that the tens of thousands of aspiring singer/songwriters on soundcloud truly believe that the world needs more acoustic ballads about love. It’s why I’ve grown to develop a strange admiration for the Kim Kardashians of the world. Sure, Kim may seem vapid and shallow when deliberating on how best to curate her brand, but at the very least she’s being intellectually honest.