Symptoms of a crisis

About 140 years ago, Victor Hugo wrote in «Les Miserables» about the deceptive glitter of success, about confusing the stars in the firmament with those on dry land. During the Great Depression that followed the US market crash of 1929, many Hollywood stars, such as Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, became objects of mass worship, providing a harmless release for millions of people. In today’s conditions of financial and job insecurity, the search for an escape from gray, day-to-day life has intensified. Gambling and celebrity worship are components of the same generalized crisis. Those who maintain the star system (and are maintained by it), often say that this is what the people want. The people want a dream; they want glitter, escape, and the media provides it, using more and more underhanded means.The dimmer the dream of a more dignified, creative life, the brighter the dream on paper, on the dance floor, on the silver screen. The greater the ranks of would-be celebrities, the greater the possibilities for self-humiliation. A celebrity’s life cycle is becoming shorter and shorter, precisely because more and more people are clamoring for a piece of the pie. Glamorous weddings, glamorous pregnancies and baptisms, a daring photograph or two, even a bust-up with a former lover are all grist for the mill. «The only thing I owe the public is to be a good actor,» Humphrey Bogart once said. Bogart was known for his reluctance to talk about his private life. These days, celebrities are required to be photographed with their children, their dogs and their furniture, to talk about the high points of their private lives and to explain «how they feel.» The poorer their talent, the more they talk. Successful people have a duty to be «communicative.» After all, what is the point of success if you can’t show it off?

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