In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention)...
If you were on Facebook at all a few weeks ago, you undoubtedly noticed some of your friends (maybe you yourself) posting the above paragraph and its accompanying legalese as a status update. This declaration was eventually widely dismissed as hogwash, but I wonder what it means that so many of us bought into the jist of it. I wonder what we felt we needed to protect ourselves from. Has anybody reading this had the stuff they posted on Facebook stolen and reproduced without their consent? Did the thieves profit from their heist of some unsuspecting Facebooker's status, profile pictures, funny comments?
It reminds me a little of the hysteria over sexting. "If you send someone a nude picture of yourself," people warn, "that could exist on the internet forever and you would be ruined." Yeah, maybe. But have you looked for naked people on the internet lately? There are quite a few to choose from! The chance that someone will stumble upon a naked picture of you ten years from now on an internet search is highly unlikely (this is not to say that I participate in or advocate sexting, mind you, I can't even figure out how to get voicemail on my phone, much less my own dink). Both the Facebook copyright kerfuffle and fear of being undone by a random snapshot of your goods become so important to everybody because I think, deep down, we all think we're going to be famous one day. Our Facebook posts and scandalous pictures will haunt us as we lunch at The Ivy and traipse down the red carpet, on the fanciest of high heels.
Dream: Never be famous one day.
Goal: Completely and utterly achievable. I am not a delusional person. I know rationally that I will never be on the cover of a magazine, appear on a late night talk show, have my own fragrance, or host Saturday Night Live with musical guest James Taylor. The fantasy of these possibilities is endlessly entertaining, of course. I replay particular scenarios of unbelievable fame when I'm on a crosstown bus or trying to fall asleep. Maybe if I'm especially lucky, I might hope for recognition akin to one of the Witty Davids (Sedaris, Rakoff, Foster Wallace), but I lack their sublime prose and access to Ira Glass.
Plan: See fame for what it truly is in an effort to stop coveting it in weaker moments.
Fame as a concept is so fascinating to me. I've heard it theorized that our interest in the lives of famous people in inherently biological. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt represent the most attractive, dominant, and virile of the species, for instance, so their behaviour is of intense interest to the rest of us. That makes sense to me, but doesn't explain the schadenfreude we feel when our favourite stars fall from grace. And if we truly prized the famous for their superior ability, wouldn't TMZ be following Yo Yo Ma around instead of Lindsay Lohan? I might actually prefer such a program.
I think the appeal of being famous is that it's validation on a grand scale. Total strangers think you're awesome, what could be wrong with that? I think part of us all secretly yearn to influence people, want others to like the things we like. But I wonder if that validation, approval from an unknowable public, becomes addictive? Maybe if you become a little bit famous, the edges wear off your opinions, the art you produce becomes blander, all in an effort to get more people to like you. That could certainly become a trap. I wonder if Tyler Perry, in his ever-widening sphere of influence, yearns to tell a more substantial story about being black in America. I wonder if he'll ever make a movie about being gay (not that he's come out or anything, I just wouldn't be surprised). Or if he'll just continue to retread familiar paths with his extremely popular Madea movies. I wonder if Jennifer Aniston wants to play the best friend or damaged sister in a dark indie, but doesn't dare take a supporting role or be cast in an unflattering light when she can continue to make a bajillion dollars on boring romantic comedies.
The invasion of privacy must be crazy, too. I know celebrities court publicity to an extent, in order to promote their tv show or movie or whatever, but does that mean we need to see them picking their kids up at school? I read that George Clooney sued a tabloid because while he was hosting friends of his at a house in Italy, the 13 year old daughter of these friends was photographed while changing clothes in a spare bedroom. There was a paparazzo in a tree outside her window. How sick is that? I feel terrible for everyone in that story, from the poor girl, to George Clooney, to the photographer hiding in a tree who is so soulless that he'd snap pictures of an underage girl for money.
I'm not saying poor famous people. I'm sure they're comforted by the obscene amounts of money they have lying around. But I do wonder why we think it's so great. Why part of us thinks, "If I were famous, I wouldn't have any problems." But famous people still get stomach flu, for instance. Still say the wrong thing to their partner and end up apologizing over breakfast. Famous people make the millions of mistakes we make every day, only they're held more accountable for them.
I hope I know someone now who will become famous one day. I hope I know them well enough that my friendship will them will not seem like blatant star-fuckery as they ascend into stardom. I'd love insight into what that world is like beyond puff pieces in magazines and lies on the internet. But I worry I'd find out that fame is as fake as a Botox-ed forehead, and that the red carpet is stained with the blood of a thousand eager dreamers, crushed beneath too many fancy high heels.