In today’s age of virality, one does not have to be exceptionally talented or charming to be famous. This crazy new normal has a few fame-thirsty individuals resorting to notoriety to get into the limelight. With reality shows promoting this behaviour on large platforms, these individuals are cashing in big time. As much as we may question why people would release tone-deaf songs or atrocious movies, they’re not the fools here. Instead, they’re attaining celebrity status and making money from your need to ridicule them. Let’s take a look at how some celebrities became famous for being famous.
Celebrity status granted by bad TV
Members of this club turned their notoriety into something bigger until their backstory became just an old part of their expanding legacy. Who hasn’t heard of the Kardashians? They are the most renounced models and influencers in the world today, but that all came later. The impetus behind the Kardashian show was Kim Kardashian’s leaked sex video, which the family then capitalised upon to build an empire. So what really is their talent? Why are they in showbiz? Nobody knows. There is no doubt, however, that they are great businesswomen. There were 20 seasons of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, each marked by family controversy and drama, turning dysfunctionality into money and an already wealthy family into one of the richest in the world.
But not everyone can keep it up like the Kardashians, gaining people’s love and respect along the way. Mega-shows like The Real Housewives, Big Boss, The Bachelor, Dance Moms, and such have their stars courting controversy after controversy. Then, the viewers forget them when the show finishes airing until the next scandal pops up. These ‘stars’ keep building onto their brand with no hope of having a good public image. The audience loves to hate them, but you still have to view their content to rage and rant about it.
Famous for being in famous bad movies
When the Malayali ‘filmmaker’ Santhosh Pandit came out with his first movie Krishnanum Radhayum, everyone from my college went to watch it. They knew well that it might be the worst thing they had ever paid money to see. But they came back and recounted everything. I sat through their animated remarks about the bad acting and the awful cinematography. Their expressions of mortification were more suited to those who’d watched a horror flick. However, this is precisely why they went and saw it in the first place. They didn’t go in expecting a good movie; they just wanted to be in on the joke. And because of many such people, this very low-budget film was a box-office success. Pandit has since then produced and starred in four more movies, all just as bad as the first.
But let’s not act like Indian cinema is the only film industry with cringe-inducing releases. Hollywood is just as guilty of poorly produced performances on inflated budgets. Have you ever heard of The Room starring Tommy Wiseau? How about The Players Club featuring biggies like Terence Howard, Jamie Foxx, Bernie Mac, and Ice Cube? These flicks stand tall today as the antithesis of cult classics. Meme generators love them for the rich material, and late-night TV talk shows are thrilled to use them as a punchline. And so their status stays reinforced as “so bad, it’s good”.
The fame of bad music
YouTube has its share of bad songs, which have a greater reach than bad movies. From Rehdogg’s “Why must I Cry” to IceJJFish, Dhinchak Pooja, and Taher Shah, tone-deaf singers produce awfully-sung, terribly-shot music videos. There is no escaping this phenomenon. Rebecca Black’s “Friday” (2011), referred to as the ‘worst song ever’, made its way onto the Billboard Hot 100 with 162 million views. Either our generation is full of Florence Foster Jenkinses, totally unaware of their lack of talent, or they’re just trolling for views.
Famous for being famous family members
When a person becomes a celebrity, everyone around them is subject to speculation. When a scandal strikes, “sources close to the star” emerge. Sometimes, this means close family or even parents. Meghan Markle’s father and half-siblings emerge every once in a while with staged paparazzi photos or commentary regarding her life. Lindsay Lohan’s father, Michael Lohan, has been on shows where he took a paternity test, went to rehab, broke up, and made up with his girlfriend. He publicised various aspects of his private life. This man’s only claim to fame is that he’s Lindsay Lohan’s father.
To top it off, there are shows like Toddlers and Tiaras that showcase mothers of child pageant participants and their daughters. The most popular names to come out of this show are Honey Boo Boo and her mother, Mama June Shannon, who even got their spin-off show. Mama June’s teen pregnancy, her relationship with sex offenders, her morbid obesity, subsequent bariatric and cosmetic surgeries, her substance abuse, and the go-go juice—all contribute to her image as an awful parent. But, unfortunately, the public just drank it all in like a terrible trainwreck in slo-mo.
15 minutes of fame
If money is the goal of publicised controversy, why do rich people still want in on it? Why has Paris Hilton had reality shows, a sex tape, and a prison sentence? The motivation is fame. Being noticed, having people talk about you, or being interested in your life is different from coveting wealth and influence. Those driven by the fame motive seek external validation. They are guided by the high of their ’15 minutes.’ Fame lends meaning to their lives, making them do outrageous things, have “beef” with other celebrities, and somehow stay in the public eye. This need for fame may arise from a sense of abandonment or lack of attention in childhood. People are never serious about them, whether interviewing them or talking about them. But given their lack of self-awareness, they don’t seem to notice.
We live in a culture that rewards narcissism and unhealthy self-involvement. Nothing can stop us as an audience from making unremarkable people unnecessarily famous. One can only hope those with something truly beautiful to contribute to the world don’t fall by the wayside.