Celebrity: First Thoughts

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March 7, 2013 by lucieromarin

Well, here’s a tricky topic, but it’s been on my mind for some time, (as in, about two years) so here goes!

Many years ago, a copy of the apologetics magazine Envoy came my way. It wasn’t a bad read (though I found the idea of an apologetics cruise a bit weird) and I was grateful for the existence of people who could tell me how to respond to the Evangelicals at my university, as nobody else was telling me anything at the time. However, the only section that remained in my memory was the humour section. The joke of this particular issue was a series of images of popular apologists depicted as Pokemon characters (trading card characters who do game-battle). I can’t remember all the names, but I remember ‘Scott Hahn-mon’, and – I am not joking – ‘Sacred Heart-mon.’

First, I was horrified. ‘Pokemon’ is short for ‘Pocket Monster’ – and there was Our Lord’s Sacred Heart, a) depicted as a trading card character, and b) suffixed with ‘monster.’

Then I was embarassed. Of course these people didn’t mean to insult Our Lord! It was a mistake, but it was an embarassing one, because, by attempting to show themselves familar with a particular subculture, they only revealed how little they knew of it.

Then I thought, well, even if you do want to use Pokemon to suggest that Our Lord in some way is a powerful being who does battle, what a giant piece of presumption to put yourself in His deck of cards! It’s one thing to think a man a great warrior against evil. It’s another thing altogether to promote yourself that way!

And that was the moment at which I began to see the difference between greatness (or renown, if you like) and celebrity. That was the moment at which I started to pay attention to marketing in the Catholic loop; to notice the difference between achievement and notoriety; to notice that I would read a saint saying, “I resolve to pass unnoticed,” while we were saying… well, not that. Of course, people can’t always help being well-known, and there’s nothing wrong with advertising a project or a mission, but even so, little thoughts appeared in the back of my mind from time to time…

1) You can be famous because you achieved something, but, in such a case, the fame itself is not the achievement. It’s the consquence of achievement. For celebrity, fame is the achievement – or, at least, it’s a sizeable part of it. That’s why…

2) Celebrity needs marketing. Greatness doesn’t.

3) Greatness can be popular and greatness can be not-popular. It can even reside in someone unpopular. Greatness can be found right accross the spectrum of popularity. Celebrity can’t. If no one wants your signature, or your picture or your book, you might be great, but you’re sure not a celebrity. (I know, the middle of this spectrum is rather pink, but the edges are clearly red or white!)

4) True greatness is the Roman Martyrology. Celebrity is Facebook.

I started to wonder how it was that celebrity had crept into the loop, and what the effects of it might be. Years later, I started to wonder about celebrity in relation to roadkill. Those thoughts will go in another post.

Lastly, you might notice that this topic has been categorised as ‘modesty.’ I can’t help thinking that it might be useful, sometimes, to remember that the virtue of modesty encompasses more than just dress.

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