The Siren Song of Fame

Is there anyone reading this who does not wish to feel important?  If you have a healthy attitude, you want to feel valued by those whom you value, like your family and close friends.  However, it is so easy, and so common to fall under the spell of the sirens who sing that “Yoooo Tooo can be Loooved by Miiiillions”. There are so many of these sirens laying traps.  If you get photographed, written about by TMZ, get coverage on cable with the famous and powerful, then you too are (by association) a part of the same group AS the famous and powerful.  This is the song the Salahis fell under the spell of.  How about the “balloon boy” family, the Heenes?  They don’t want to live without fame either.  Getting a prison sentence for hoaxing rescue workers wasn’t enough.  They’ve enlisted a “documentary” filmmaker named Steven Barber to put out a FEATURE called Balloon Boy: Guilty Until Proven Innocent, in support of their delusion.

Have you watched any of the American Idol opening audition episodes?  Those are the only ones I watch.  They fulfill my previously detailed love for “so bad it’s good” programming.  These episodes provide an unending parade of people who have never faced a simple truth; THAT THEY CAN’T SING!  It’s not a crime to be unable to sing well.  For most people, it can be overcome with lessons.  Karaoke, or singing along with your iPod is NOT the same as lessons.  What’s remarkable is that no one ever seems to have told these people the truth about their lack of ability.  They bring along troops of family and friends to reinforce their delusion!  I can’t understand why people would want to work so hard for the “rape me” music contracts offered in exchange for winning American Idol in the first place.  The best strategy is to be someone like Chris Daughtry.  He got knocked off as the #4 guy in Season 5 (2006), so he had no obligation to the faustian bargains required of winners.  He didn’t have to star in another “From Justin to Kelly”.  His debut album sold 5 million copies.  By comparison, the album by winner Taylor Hicks, a silver-haired Elvis clone, sold 700,000, and Simon’s label (Arista) dropped him.  All the American Idol winners can sing.  The problem is the show requires them to sing cover tunes all season, songs made famous by other people.  It’s blatantly unoriginal.  The show should really be called American Imitator.  You KNOW every contestant is just a slave to the siren song of fame.

Twenty-five years ago, I used to do temp work as an office assistant for casting people and talent managers.  I saw people come in for auditions and meetings every day.  I saw the over-amped desperation, that look of “please, please, please, I’ll do ANYTHING”.  I watched as the casting people would lie to the hopeful, gullible masses, steering them to the classes and photographers from whom they got kickbacks.  I’m telling you straight, the most degrading job on Earth is to be an aspiring actor.  Just imagine what it would be like if dating held the same odds as success in acting.  You would have to ask 100 people to go out with you before one said “maybe”, and another 100 before one said “yes”.  That’s the ordinary amount of rejection a prospective actor must endure.  Why do they do it?  The sirens.  They caaaalll, they caaallll for yooooou!  FameFAMEfame

What makes people think FAME can fulfill their lives?

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17 Comments

Filed under Self-Esteem

17 responses to “The Siren Song of Fame

  1. drew pillow

    This was a fantastic post! I think I have heard the sirens… Lol. I wonder if the odds are just as discouraging for aspiring writers ?

    • I’ve thought about that one a lot! I think the odds are much better for GOOD writers. Anybody can blog, that’s more democratic, but not many can actually get a decently readable book, play or screenplay finished. It takes so much longer because of rewriting (which is where most “ok” writing gets good), and few have enough discipline, let alone talent. Many first-time film directors get their shot because they previously wrote a script that sold, even if it wasn’t produced. Good luck, and keep writing!

  2. kris513

    Loved this post :). Keep it up and I hope to read more of your posts soon

  3. Phil Monk

    Great stuff, Mikey! It reminds me of a line from a Clint Eastwood movie that, “a man’s got to know his limitations”. I heard the sirens while gigging semi-professionally, but decided I made a better weekend warrior. Hey, I know my limitations. But the people I play for in nursing homes love me. After one particular gig, I overheard one lady ask a friend, “Is he somebody famous?” And you know what? For just a minute, I felt I was. 😀

  4. As much as I can understand right now, I think you’re right!

  5. Pie

    That siren song is very persuasive.

    For a long time, I wanted to work on magazines as a graphic designer. I knew I’d never be in the night sky twinkling like Neville Brody or David Carson, but I wanted to have the glamour of working on a magazine nevertheless. The years of frustration borne of not getting that kind of work blinded me to the stuff I was producing well which was appreciated by clients and others. Two years ago I let go of all of that and decided to enjoy what I have. Since then I’ve had a couple of short stints on publications. Not well known names on the high street like Vogue, but I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work on them. Last year I made an invite for a friends party and when some of the guests found out I was the person who produced it, they looked at me in awe and sung my praises. I found it flattering, but a little freaky and embarrassing to be honest. For that one night I got a taste of what it must be like to be my brothers, because they get this a lot as musicians and I imagine the really famous people get it almost 24-7. I don’t want to live that kind of reality, no matter how good it looks from the outside. I’m convinced now that I don’t need to hear that siren song. I can create my own.

    • I’m right with you Val/pie. Fame is intoxicating, but it distorts the lives of all but the strongest. You can be good at what you do and get respect for it, and that’s fair, and enough to keep things healthy. I’m kind of surprised this post touched a nerve in people, but I guess it’s closer to the zeitgeist.

  6. Interesting question that you ask, about whether or not anyone ever told those folks on Idol that they couldn’t sing. I was an entertainer in the Chicago area for 25 years, successful enough to make a living but not to hit the concert circuit. One of the things that first got me moving in the direction of philosophy and stuff was a basic question:

    “If everyone around you (e.g., you family and friends) tells you the band is great, how do you know if the band is any good?”

    The question came from observations regarding the countless number of musicians who thought they could play but couldn’t. Everyone had told them they could sing, play the guitar, bang the drums, whatever. When they played their first clubs or parties, they packed the audiences with family, friends, neighbors. Sadly, they couldn’t play at all. But they really and truly didn’t know.

    Ultimately, I learned that this is the core question of epistemology: How do you know what you know?

    The quest for objective opinion is even more difficult. Most people would much rather you answer them with what they want to hear, not with the truth. That holds true in school as well, starting even in the earliest grades. So few people want to appear stupid or ignorant, they’d rather prevent others from speaking answers. We see that continue all the way to Washington and congress.

    Modern schools only have gotten worse, not better. Do-over tests, elimination of competition, giving awards for effort, outcome-based education and grading for self-esteem: these all help remove children from competition. As our kids grow up, they have no concept at all of being “better” or “worse.”

    From what I’ve seen, painful or not, the best thing is to produce an example of one’s work, whatever form it takes. Then put that example in front of total strangers in a way that you still can learn about the feedback. For example, write a novel and hand the first chapter to a friend. Tell the friend to give it out to a few of his or her friends, but to make sure they’re people you don’t even know. Ignore whatever comments the friend directly makes.

    Those strangers, knowing that the work comes from “someone they don’t know” will mostly give objective criticism. They won’t be afraid of hurting someone’s feelings because they don’t know the originator. In a society afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings, we lose the whole idea of objective critique.

    Who has the courage to do that sort of testing? Wouldn’t it involve having not only character, but also a real love of the truth? 🙂

    • Tesh

      My most “cruel” processor in college told us specifically not to show our work to family. He also delighted in telling you when your work stunk.

      Getting praise from him was valuable because of its honesty.

  7. It would also depend on whether the friends and family have expertise aside from being friends and family. Many of the greatest singers and players come from families whose members also have musical aptitude and accomplishment.

    I agree that it is a shame that so little excellence is expected in education, and that it’s too rare for people to evaluate themselves truthfully. I mean, you can buy a $20 electronic tuner and sing a pitch into it. The meter won’t lie regarding whether you can hit and stay on pitch. It isn’t occult knowledge either. Music is highly teachable as are dancing, acting and writing. But taste? That’s hard to acquire. So many of the Idol hopefuls make poor choices regarding an audition song that would fit their voice and be current enough to please the judges (3 of whom are producers looking for marketable product.) They torpedo their own chances.

  8. Interesting and insightful article *thumbs up*.
    As a newbie artist (pencils and other traditional tools) myself, I’m sometimes unable to spot mistakes, or unappealing concepts, and my own blatant inexperience that shines through my own works.
    One of the things I learned to do, is to file every drawing I make so that I could later on at some future point, look at it, and reflect on my own progress (and of course, spot the various things that marked my inexperience).

    Exposure to really harsh criticism, that literally punches you in the face, helps you realize were you wrong.
    You need the right people to critique on your works, or otherwise your dreamlike bubble will never pop, and you will not work harder to the right direction. In fact, your bubble may get reinforced, if you’re bombarded with constant amiable comments about your works. The real shock comes to those people when they apply to art schools.

    However, a shameful thing can often happen, especially when taking sensitive newbie artists and punching them with an objective criticism – they close up, or they give up on their pursue.

    Sidenote: It’s really nice that I stumbled upon your blog, I really like the content, and your way of putting things on (digitalized) paper 🙂

    • Sorry I didn’t thank you for reading sooner! Back when this was posted I didn’t understand how to navigate and track comments…
      Good luck on the continued growth of your files.

  9. Hey I posted this article to my myspace page.

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