Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Hero vs Celebrity

Fame does not equal greatness.

1. The hero was a human figure who had shown greatness in some achievement. He was a man or a woman of great deeds. The celebrity is a person who is known for his well-knownness. He is the human pseudo-event.

2. Heroes were men and women of great purpose. Celebrities are receptacles into which we pour our own purposelessness. They are nothing but ourselves seen in a magnifying mirror.

3. Heroes were made from virtue and value. Celebrities are made by simple familiarity, induced and re-enforced by public means. Their chief claim to fame is their fame itself. They are notorious for their notoriety.

4. The hero was distinguished by his achievement; the celebrity by his image or trademark.

5. The hero created himself; the celebrity is created by the media.

6. The hero was a big man; the celebrity is a big name.

7. The hero was born of time: His gestation required at least a generation. The celebrity, on the contrary, is always a contemporary.

8. The hero was made by folklore, sacred texts, and history books; but the celebrity is the creature of gossip, of public opinion, of magazines, newspapers, and the ephemeral images of movie and television screens.

9. The dead hero becomes immortal. He becomes more vital with the passage of time. The celebrity even in his lifetime become passé: he passes out of the picture.

10. Heroes standing for greatness in the traditional mold tend to become colorless and cliché. The greatest heroes have the least distinctiveness of face or figure. Celebrities, however, suffer from idiosyncrasy. They are too vivid, too individual, to be polished into a symmetrical Greek statue.

11. While heroes are assimilated to one another by the great simple virtues of their character, celebrities are differentiated mainly by trivia of personality. To be known for your personality actually proves you a celebrity. Thus a synonym for 'a celebrity' is 'a personality.'

12. If someone does a heroic deed in our time, all the machinery of public information -- press, pulpit, radio, and television -- soon transform him into a celebrity. If they cannot succeed in this, the would-be hero disappears from public view.

13. In our world of big names, curiously, our true heroes tend to be anonymous. In this life of illusion and quasi-illusion, the person with solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knownness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicized jobs. Their virtues are not the product of our efforts to fill our void. Their very anonymity protects them from the flashy ephemeral celebrity life.

Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image (1961)


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