Fame is subjective — it always has been. The celebrities that excite one group of people rarely excite another, and the “roadmap” to fame looks different to everyone that encounters it. However, one thing has always been the same, no matter how you look at it: celebrity is always big.
Album releases and movie premieres were once premium events. People rushed to fashion blogs to see who was sitting in the front rows at NYFW, and what they were wearing. Late night interviews on YouTube always got millions of views and would be the talk of everyone for weeks to come. In recent memory, however, celebrity has seemed to die down. What was once larger than life has come down to the human level, and allowed people to get a closer look.
The recent situation involving the star-studded version of “Imagine” by John Lennon captures the idea perfectly. After people all over the world had spent days in their small homes and apartments, they did not want to be confroted by an iPhone video compilation of the uber-wealthy. The outrage was swift and vocal, with hundreds of comments under Gal Gadot’s Instagram video ridiculing her idea. The move was seen as tone deaf and even taunting, after what people had been through in the beginning stages of the quarantine.
Later, “Fifty Shades of Grey” star Jamie Dornan, who was featured in the video, came out against it claiming he was roped into it by another celebrity. What many celebrities saw as an idea to find exposure — while also helping those around the country — became a total embarrassment for everyone involved. However, not long ago, that would have been a good idea. People always loved videos of celebrities doing things in support of tragedies, so why was it different now? It was different because celebrities are no longer hailed in the ways they always were, and celebrity no longer holds the positive connotations it used to.
Toward the end of March, comedian Kevin T. Porter made a request to his Twitter followers. He requested for people to comment their stories of Ellen Degeneres being a bad boss, customer, or all-around bad person to be around. To many, the idea of stories like this existing seems implausible. Ellen was once the perfect idea of a celebrity that people always wished they could be friends with, and she also was the gatekeeper for other celebrities to have that public persona as well. Porter’s thread now has over 2,000 comments, nearly all of them are from people telling “mean Ellen” stories that they either experienced or heard through the grapevine.
The idea of Ellen being a mean person pokes a gigantic hole in her entire identity. Ellen was always seen as a fun-loving and kind person, and other celebrities would act like being on her show was the most fun they could possibly have. However, if in reality, Ellen is actually rude to those around her, it also pokes a hole in the entire ecosystem of celebrity interviews. It illustrates the way that many pillars of celebrity culture are done out of obligation, and not by choice. If being on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” is not actually a fun, positive time, what does that mean about those who go on it and act like they are having the time of their lives?
The actions made by the biggest celebrities were always huge deals and the only thing people could talk about at the moment; however, even that seems to be changing. Take Lady Gaga, for example. Gaga’s album releases and even the periods leading up to them were always marked with her fans losing their minds and album visuals taking over the news. For years, her fans have harassed her online, begging for a release date for #LG6, her elusive sixth album. Now, there is a release date, and what could be considered one of the most rabid fan bases in the world has gotten what they have asked for since 2016 — but nobody went crazy. Even Gaga’s fans are admitting that this does not feel as big as it usually does. Her most recent album, “Joanne,” was surrounded with much more hype, even though it was a complete departure from Gaga’s usual sound. The things that used to be big, even monumental, in celebrity culture are now dying down.
Celebrity is not over. There will never not be famous people and the people that dedicate their lives to fanning their fame. However, the way we look at celebrity may be over — at least as we know it.