In the West and in the U.S. particularly, we have this concept that success equals being “rich and famous.” These two qualities—wealth and fame—although very separate are consistently lumped into the same category. Perhaps the rarity of both combined is what makes them such precious goals to achieve. Like wealth, fame is something that can only exist in a hierarchical setting. Not everyone can be wealthy, though perhaps in an ideal world, everyone could have enough to get by. People within their communities might know each other, but the concept of “celebrity” can’t exist without a feeling (whether perceived or felt) of “betterness.”
What’s so interesting about fame is that people will go to negative lengths to achieve it. Appearing on terrible reality shows that humiliate the contestants, committing crimes that are captured by the national media … these acts both qualify as a type of infamy, although of obviously different magnitudes. All fame is, when it comes down to it, is attention—attention on a massive scale. If you’ve ever been around an attention-starved child, you’ll know that the fastest way for the kid to get attention is by acting out. Throwing a tantrum or breaking rules will get a response, whereas being “good” might only sometimes get a response, and certainly not as quickly as being “bad.”
We like to think we outgrow childish behavior, but really, these aforementioned scenarios are just human behavior manifested in childish ways. How often are there articles about people doing good deeds and simply being good people? Attention to good deeds are rare, and it’s definitely not something that is widely circulated. We are drawn to sensationalism, evil, violence, and the media profits.
The media are blamed all the time for reporting incredibly negative stories, but the truth is, we make a choice to read these stories, and enough of us partake to incentivize the media to write about continuously more bleak topics. The desire to be famous and have a legacy is a way of avoiding the concept of mortality for just a little longer. A person may feel invincible for just a while. She might feel some semblance of herself permeates the atmosphere and will outlast her rotting flesh….even if the memory she leaves is a bad one.