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Celebrity Worship

This is an excellent read on celebrities in our time! By Jason Pargin (Instagram).

SubStack is full of great insights—I’m sorry, Jason Pargin is full of great insights.

cartoon about moses and listicles
I stood in front of a Fashion Week exit long ago, lots of ugly, fat paparazzi out front. It was a fascinating scene to behold: beautiful celebrities would walk out, and the paparazzi would hurl insults at them to get them to respond. What astonished me was the dignity with which they took that in stride. The celebrities smiled back at the paparazzi and handled it incredibly gracefully. The Fashion Week visitors did prefer this treatment over being ignored; some non-celebrities walked out slowly in a usually failed attempt to give the paparazzi the time to insult them!

It struck me how strange their world must be. Later, I saw the tabloid articles where the celebrities’ looks were slammed. It was insane! You get photographed by these ugly paparazzi, and they sell the photo to some tabloid, and your appearance gets criticized.

I went to investigate it a bit. As it turns out, the tabloid photos that sell for the most money are the ones where the celebrity looks into the camera. This gives a celebrity much control over how they are depicted in the tabloids! They can compose themselves and then look into the cameras and BAM! That’s the foto that sells. That’s the image that’s used in the tabloids.

You don’t control whether cameras are pointed at you, but you do get to control what they capture.

Googling several celebrities, I noticed they tended to have a ‘look,’ a way of looking into the camera. A Google Image search yielded a wall full of the same facial expressions of a celebrity. It was often a way for actors to show what acting gig they were looking for and what character they wanted to play in their next movie.

Tip to screenwriters: if you want to write for a specific actor, look at their current ‘look’ and write a screenplay for the character they are projecting in public. It’s how they currently want the audience to think of their characters. The larger audience doesn’t discern between the actor and the character they play.

The actors must have practiced their ‘look’ in a mirror for hours. These celebrities have learned how to deal with a life in public view.

Today, if we’re on social media even a bit, we all have to deal with random people hurling insults at us.

There should be media training for the average non-celebrity, too. As Jason Pargin’s article rightly points out, it’s tough to hide online nowadays, at least if you want to make money as an artist of some sort. We may need to design our public personas like famous people do.

(I am already practicing my ‘look’ in the mirror daily. I arrived at this sardonic faux-ironic, ‘I am being a cartoonist here’ look. You never know when this blows up, and I have to fight off the paparazzi in front of my house.)

I came up with a cartoon when reading an off-the-cuff comment on listicles in Jason Pargin’s article, thereby completely missing the point of his article (I’m sorry, Jason...).

His article is a great read, and he points out why we don’t have to worry about A.I. for now. Much of what we do, including consuming media, is about connecting to other humans. A.I. can not behave like an actual human just yet.

Jason explains that Cracked articles were written as if said by the brand. He rightly points out that Cracked should have made the writers the central personalities instead. But if we publish on a platform, isn’t that platform the brand, the celebrity? Do we watch “YouTube videos,” or do we watch “MrBeast videos?” Do we read “SubStack newsletters,” or do we read “Jason Pargin newsletters?” My gut feeling tells me we associate the platform itself with the content. I watch YouTube videos. The algorithm finds things I might like (and it’s not MrBeast). I have a biggish Instagram account, and people who follow me there are mainly interested in passively scrolling their feeds—they need to overcome their boredom by perusing any random content at all, not necessarily mine.

People go onto that platform because they want to consume content typical to that platform.

This is good news for artists: if you get featured on a large platform, you can reach a large audience. Looking into famous people, you’ll see they mostly got their break when featured on a large platform. Much like the celebrity in this cartoon got featured on a large platform.

This concludes our lesson on fame from your incredibly famous favorite cartoonist.

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