Fame and (Mis)Fortune
Our undying search for fame—or to follow the famous—compromises our good judgement.
The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse (public domain - Wikimedia Commons)
“What a heavy burden is a name that has become too famous.” — Voltaire
How much do you value the close relationships in your life? You know - friends, spouse, children, parents. What would you do if they just—poof— disappeared one day?
It seems that fame-driven or ego-driven decisions, along with an absence of authenticity, can result in abandonment. Where those we care about might abandon us if we abandon our principles.
It made me think of the poem "Myself" by Edgar Albert Guest:
… here in the struggle for fame and wealth
I want to be able to like myself.
I don't want to look at myself and know that
I am… bluff and empty show.
I never can hide myself from me;
I see what others may never see;
I know what others may never know,
I never can fool myself and so,
whatever happens I want to be
self respecting and conscience free.
The tale of Caroline Calloway might seem like an odd one, but in fact, her situation is neither unique nor modern. Calloway is the internet-famous Instagrammer who rocketed to stardom, signed a mid six-figure book deal, and then let it all crash down.
The article above was penned by Natalie Beach, her former friend and ghostwriter, who laid bare the true facts behind this cewebrity. Calloway made a reputation for herself as a gilded lily of a fairy tale, but she duped her fans and publisher alike as it all came crashing down.
Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to a prison term for her role in paying for her daughter's SAT scores to be rigged. While many thought that the term was too light, Huffman at least provided a forthright and honest apology for her actions.
These two cases that involve celebrity and special treatment, but the difference is that Huffman was more contrite and accepting of her responsibility. But both women have been exposed for their fraudulent behavior and are pariahs.
It's a lesson in the struggles of fame: fame, once tasted, can poison the mind and good judgement. It doesn't matter whether you're Hollywood famous, Internet famous, or neighborhood famous; it's human nature to let it go to your head.
The challenge of course is to fight it.
In the early 1800s, Lord Byron struggled with the new and powerful effect of fame. This was a time when the public would crowd around poets and authors, even showing up outside of their houses or stealing objects.
Byron's fame distorted everything around it and he found himself as
"one of the earliest beneficiaries of a new kind of entrepreneurial celebrity forged in the furnace of rapid industrialization and no longer dependent on the authority of conquest, church, or heredity, Byron embodied a phenomenon that was new and unnerving in the range of emotions it could elicit and the power seemingly at its command." (Lapham's Quarterly)
Byron hired a doctor, John William Polidori, who was also an aspiring writer. As they spent more time together, Polidori became resentful of Byron's success and of his constant mocking of the doctor's efforts. He became brooding and violent, and Byron ultimately released him from service.
The doctor would eventually have his revenge though, writing a tale about a an aristocrat who preyed on women. This work was
"an emphatic view of fame as a predator that grows strong through the sacrifice of superior values, while simultaneously condemning a celebrity-hungry society that exults in the ephemeral qualities of charisma and talent."
The full history is filled with more details, but the point is clear: there's something about this unquenchable search for fame that it compromises our good judgement.
Something to keep in mind whether you're an "influencer," hiring influencers, or are someone who actually is able to move the masses to action.
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.
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