Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
What makes a celebrity? I was thinking about this recently when reflecting on the time three months ago when Ellen Degeneres visited my work. Production completely halted (except for one certain title analyst who wanted to seem indifferent) and everyone was clamoring to get noticed by America's favorite lesbian.

One of the people that Ellen ended up latching onto was a woman who I have lunch with every day (who we'll call Edith, mainly because I'm listening to Edith Piaf right now). Edith was shown on Ellen's show and was interviewed for the company magazine. And now Edith is approached constantly by people in our office who saw her on television. She is now one of the most recognizable faces at my workplace.

Edith has, in her own small way, become a celebrity.

What constitutes a celebrity, anyway? Is it people who don't know you recognizing you? Is it being seen by millions of people nationwide? If that is the case, then a big celebrity (Ellen) hath begat a small celebrity (Edith). True, Edith's fifteen minutes have passed (and talking to her about it, that's as long as she wanted it around), but she is no longer Edith. She is Edith, The Woman Who Was On "Ellen".

I used to think that celebrities were those who had made it in the entertainment industry. But fame is much more wide-spread. Tom Brady is a celebrity. Karl Rove is a celebrity. Charles Manson is a celebrity. To me (and others who follow Orange County theater) Mark Coyan and Jay Fraley are celebrities. To the people at work, Edith is a celebrity.

With all of these people, plus reality show contestants, game show hosts and informercial stars, the term "celebrity" really doesn't have the luster that it used to.

In an unrelated topic (remember the days when I used to transition between two unrelated topics with a very thin thread? Those were the days), my roommate Allan, who knows a little bit about nearly everything, introduced me to the work of a Czechoslovakian stop-motion animator named Jan Svankmajer. Mr. Svankmajer is like a Luis Bunuel or Salvador Dali with clay, commenting on the oppressed and the poverty-stricken through his surreal, humorous satire.

My favorite of the works I witnessed was simply called "Food". In three vignettes (appropriately titled "Breakfast", "Lunch" and "Dinner"), a man eats breakfast only to be turned into the same dumb-waiter he took food from, two men eat everything at the table except for food, and a crowd of people eat their own body parts after beautifully decorating them. It is very funny, remarkably inventive and (considering the way he combined real people with clay duplicates) amazing to watch. To watch the heads and mouths of real people be stretched and squished to impossible sizes, only to return to normal, takes on almost a grotesque sort of humor.

Watching the films of Jan Svankmajer and Buster Keaton (who I became re-obsessed with after seeing "all wear bowlers") have made me realize that I want the theatre and films that I make to exist in an alternate reality. It doesn't have to be as weird as people eating tables or doing pratfalls. Just something that exists in a parallel dimension.

It seems that the best entertainments as of late occupy this world. "Sin City" is a recent example, as is the play "Princess Marjorie". Hell, even "Batman Begins" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" exist in an alternate reality where men can fight crime in rubber bat suits and friends can randomly burst into a Twyla Tharp-style sing-along of "Aquarius".

Basically, I think my writing is no longer concerned with the real world how we know it. Like Constantine says in Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull", "Life must be represented not as it is, but as it ought to be; as it appears in dreams."

And who knows? Maybe this kind of writing will finally make me a celebrity.

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