"These Aren't People Who Care What You Think, They Just Want Eyeballs."

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 14.472% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Miley Cyrus wants to be famous.  Which is wonderful for us!  Her desire for fame, and her success at it, means we get to turn her into a human pinata, make fun of her every life’s choice, give her nowhere to hide!
And that’s awesome.  It’s entertainment, watching mentally unstable people fall apart.  We need to send in more cameras to watch Britney cut her hair, Amanda go nuts on Twitter!  Let’s see if we can bribe her buddies to reveal the details of her last suicide attempt, talk a pharmacist into telling us what medications she’s on!
It’s okay, because they’re those types of people. You know.  Fame whores.  They don’t really feel pain; no, they got into this for the sole reason that they wanted us to pay attention to them, and so, really, isn’t it our duty to have photographers hiding outside their bushes with cameras, hoping desperately to catch them topless?  It’s their fault, really.  For being so dysfunctional.  For actually wanting fame in the first place.
So fuck ’em if they hurt, right?  Those “acting outs” aren’t real pain.  It’s just fake pain, designed to get sympathy from the media, which is all they want.
The reason I say this is because someone implied the other day that Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus were a different class of people who only wanted one thing: eyeballs.  As long as people were paying attention to them, those kind of people were happy.  Which made it all right to heap whatever scorn upon them you desired, because hey, man, those folks are wired differently.  Pleasure, pain, any PR is good PR to people like that.
To which I say, fuck that.
People in the limelight are still people, and they have needs and desires other than the attention of TMZ.  They can still be hurt by the betrayal of friends, of the lack of their own skill, by the stress of their jobs, by money problems.  They remain human beings.  In some cases very messed up human beings, since they’ve cross-wired “attention from external sources” with “self-esteem” in really bad ways, but they did not step past some threshold of human dignity the moment they had their first hit movie.
But the “they only want fame” is something we tell ourselves to make it okay.  It’s a meme we tell ourselves because deep down, a lot of people really, really like watching successful people self-destruct.  There’s no quicker way for a celebrity to get a headline than to have their personal lives collapse in a public way.  And I think that’s because we really fucking resent people with talent, and feel a little inadequate and/or jealous when we see someone at the top of their game – “Hey, why can’t I have all that fame?  Why don’t people pay that much attention to my art?” – and so humanity is weirdly reassured by watching the repetition of seeing successful people miserable.
Hell, that would make us miserable people, though, little more than vultures.  So what’s our next move?  Let’s dehumanize ’em.  We can do a double-whammy if we just say that the only thing famous people want is fame!  Because hey, wanting positive feedback from others is bad, right?  It must be, because we don’t get a lot of it – so let’s rationalize the success of a deep-seated human need by calling the desire for universal acclaim a character flaw.  And then, once we’ve established that the desire itself is awful and inhuman, we can say these celebrities are basically inhuman by attributing whole different claims of desire to them!  They’re not real people, man.  This swarm of hatred surrounding them?  They feed on it.  They love it.
Let’s give them more.
Look, I’ll critique Miley’s performance, because the performance was meant for me to watch, and I didn’t like it.  A blogger said that she loved the performance because, and I quote, “Miley is [dancing] around like an idiot. And I kind of love her for tricking MTV into letting her do that on national television.”  Fair, but I’m generally not impressed by Andy Kaufman-esque crowdplay.  What I saw was a bad and amateurish show, produced with the intent of me seeing it- and so I’m happy to critique the show, and perhaps the intent behind it.
But at the same time, Miley’s Dad Billy Ray is expressing concern about Miley getting out of control, and Miley has had a couple of Twitter-feuds with her Dad.  I don’t think Billy Ray is inhumanly thinking, “Well, she’s famous, and I’m famous, so this is all awesome.”  I think he’s worried about his daughter going the suicidal celebrity route, demolishing her life, and I think he has genuine regrets about putting her in the spotlight so young.  I think, while he did seek fame, he can still think that fame is a mistake.  I think there’s a human person underneath that – perhaps a foolish one, but not a guy wired so different that he’d be happy if his daughter was a drug-addled dysfunctional moron.
Did Billy want fame?  Sure.  Most of us do.  Most of us don’t have the talent or the guts or the luck to achieve anything like that fame – but given how successful COPS has been, I think it’s clear that a staggering amount of people would endure very bad things to have people recognize them.  You might not like it, but it’s a core human need.
Here’s the thing, though: once you get fame, it’s not at all what you thought it would be.  You can’t turn it off – you get accosted at all hours of the day.  People start commenting on how bad you look on a given day.  They assume because they know who you are, you must be rich.  They want to befriend not you, but this image of you that exists only in their head, and they get disappointed when you don’t live up to that.
There’s a cost that comes with all of this fame, and that cost is near impossible to calculate beforehand.  Just like every other human endeavor.  I think if we’re going to sneer, “Well, they should have known what fame would do to them!” and withdraw all sympathy, then we should also withdraw all sympathy for every bad breakup and career choice and parenting decision.
No.  As humans, we’re really bad at guessing what we want.  Much of the human existence consists of struggling madly to get our desire, acquiring it in a blaze of triumph, and then discovering that shit, this wasn’t really what we were in the mood for – the wrong girlfriend, the wrong job, the wrong party.  Fame is no different from any other aspect of humanity in that except that few people will ever get that level of furor surrounding them, and I think we then seek to justify reasons for beating the shit out of those who have succeeded at what we could not.
Miley is not a different breed of human.  She is a young woman, raised in a different environment that may well be full-on fucking toxic for her as she gets older, having spent her formative years in a state where practically everyone she meets is kissing her ass, where her every move is chronicled by flashing cameras, where the slightest option she makes thunders across headlines.  That’s not going to continue forever, though she’ll be warped by this experience just as every kid in a dysfunctional household will.  She’ll want fame, yes, but partially because she’s come to assume its presence, and its waning would be as weird and threatening to you as the loss of your hearing.
Yet she’ll still have other desires aside from this one thirst for fame.  They may be warped around it.  But she’ll come to distrust her buddies, to wonder what’s wrong with her that people don’t care about her new single, to feel like every move she makes must either be careful or buck fucking wild.
That gives her different challenges in life.  I hope she overcomes them.
I hope you don’t think she’s so different that she might as well be a lab rat. All I’m sayin’.


  1. Mishell Baker
    Aug 28, 2013

    “then we should also withdraw all sympathy for every bad breakup and career choice and parenting decision.”
    Ah, but they do, they do. The same people you’re talking about, anyway. They secretly (or not so secretly) gloat over their neighbors’ divorces, lost jobs, and even rapes, because to them life is a zero-sum game where anyone else’s lost joy or hope is now up for grabs.

  2. Jericka
    Aug 28, 2013

    I worry about the celebrities that end up surrounded by yes-people and ass kissers. They have no one with judgement who is willing to disagree or question or voice even a slightly different opinion. They seem to be the ones who down in flames most spectacularly, and I never like to see it. I always want to see people go on to do great things, or learn, or recover from adversity. Watching from a distance as someone starts to go down the path of the echo chamber is painful.

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