Brooks Kolb

Brooks Kolb is a Seattle writer, artist, and a landscape architect.

On America’s Celebrity Culture

Date: December 17, 2022

Not a day goes by that I don’t ask the question, does my life have value given that I’m not a celebrity?  Of course, this absurd thought runs counter to the Buddhist philosophy with which I’ve been priming myself:  I am a sentient being connected to all other sentient beings.  As their equal, I am not special, nor are any of my fellow beings more special than I.  Moreover, I console myself with a Socratic counter question:  would I really be any happier, were I to open my door to a crush of paparazzi?   All of us who are not celebrities congratulate ourselves that, as my husband put it, we don’t have to apply makeup, lipstick, and Dior couture every time we exit the house.  Nevertheless, my existential question hangs in the air, a daily pang of anxiety, a tiny hint of failure. 

Why should it be so?  John Waters answered it when, interviewed by Terri Gross on “Fresh Air,” he stated unequivocally that every American secretly desires to be a TV star.  Give each of us, at a minimum, our fifteen minutes of fame.  But even his observation doesn’t fully explain why I can’t shake the nagging suspicion that my life would be more valuable if I was at least quoted in “The New Yorker.”  However, I can pose my own partial answer.  In a word, it is bombardment.  We are bombarded every moment by the latest deeds and misdeeds of all the celebrities, who are in a sense an extension of our own families.  After all, they are in my living room every evening (yes, I admit that I watch “Entertainment Tonight.”)  That means I clock in more time with them than I do with my friends and relatives!  Was or was not Meghan Markle mistreated by the Royal Family?  That is the biggest question of the day, and quite frankly it outranks the more personal question of whether or not I will finish my Christmas shopping on time.

Is there hope for me, or am I doomed always to feel inferior to celebrities?  In economic terms, we speak of “the one percent” (Elon Musk, etc.) and “the ninety-nine percent” (you and me.)  Along those lines, celebrities are perhaps the top ten percent, and we the bottom ninety.  Every day I reassure myself that I have value as a member of the ninety-percentile, yet a little shard of doubt persists.