- September 14th, 2009
- 2 Comments
Last night I watched the “music video” from the upcoming remake of “Fame.” Those of you who know me well, may know that the original “Fame” is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I’m really struggling with this particular remake (vs. say “Ice Castles”). What I loved about the original was that even though all of the main characters dreamed of fame, we never really see any of them achieve it. CoCo ends up shooting an adult film, the best ballerina in school ends up pregnant, the handsome actor Doris moons over as a freshman goes from getting a pilot in L.A. to waiting tables back in New York.
But oh, how times have changed. New York has changed. I can’t write a better description of the new fame landscape than Eric Felten’s in his recent Wall Street Journal piece:
Every year tens of thousands of deluded hopefuls flock to “American Idol” auditions. An onslaught of tween franchises—from “High School Musical” and “Hannah Montana” to “Camp Rock” and every other show on the Disney Channel—champions the pursuit of pop stardom. There are “reality” shows promising fame for fashion designers, dancers, chefs, vaudevillians, models and the prodigiously fertile. So desperate is the pursuit of notoriety that people will even compete to be toadies and hangers-on—witness the MTV show in which one sorry lot after another angles to be Paris Hilton’s “best friend.” The Children’s Place store is selling girls’ T-shirts with the slogan “someday i’ll be FAMOUS.”
It’s not that young people didn’t want to be famous back in the 80s—yes, I was a tween dancer and even went to modeling school, too (my “headshots” are pretty hilarious), but it did feel more elusive—something you might achieve if you were talented, connected and/or just lucky. That pre-teen fantasy of becoming famous would eventually flame out for most of us as we made our way through “the real world.”
We know that a key part of adolescent development is trying on different identities and performing these for “invisible audiences.” The difference is that today, with the internet and access to low-cost video cameras, teens can actually find REAL audiences. There are too many stories of people achieving fame—no matter how fleeting or “micro” it may be, and too many narratives that show young people (as in Felten’s examples) reaching for the stars…and touching them. Instead of being a fantasy or delusion to escape the reality of how painful or awkward adolescence can be, dreaming of and achieving some level of fame is now a serious pursuit (and industry).
We recently posted about Jean Twenge’s latest research on youth, narcissistic tendencies and the internet. I think every generation of youth experiences the desire to be famous as a normal part of growing up. What’s different is how technology has given all of us the tools to more fully express this desire—to promote ourselves, distribute our work, “go viral,” etc. Like just about every other human impulse, technology has an amplifying effect. Add to that the proliferation of reality TV fame-seeking formula shows, which are relatively inexpensive to produce, and the new fame narrative where kids become famous vs. being “legends in their own minds,” and you get an entire culture that wants you to “remember my name.” The challenge is separating the tools and need for self promotion as a way to stand out in uncertain times with the slippery slope of “celebrity narcissism” for young celebrity wannabes.