There are occasional moments when I feel so confused by an aspect of our culture, it’s like being an anthropologist studying an obscure tribe, or Jane Goodall observing chimps. Usually those moments have to do with my teenagers – a joke they think is hysterical which goes completely over my head, or my 16-year-old trying to explain what makes a video go viral. (He discovered Gangnam Style before it had a million hits, which gives him some authority as being ahead of the pop culture curve.) When one of my videos topped 8,000 hits, his reaction was, “Well, mom, that’s viral for old people.”
But my most recent “I feel like Jane Goodall” moment was in a supermarket check-out line, behind someone who definitely had more than 15 items; to keep from glaring at her, I started reading the magazine and tabloid covers. I pride myself on being fairly well-informed about both politics and entertainment, so it was rather dismaying to realize I hadn’t heard of a single name in those headlines. Every single one of them was from some reality TV show, although I couldn’t tell you which ones were from The Bachelor, which from Survivor, etc. I felt like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, bemoaning the end of true celebrity as a result of some artistic accomplishment. (“I’m still big, it’s the reality shows that have gotten bigger . . . “)
I used to say I wanted the kind of fame that was celebrated by those American Express ads, where talented-but-not-totally-famous people would say, “You know my name, but you probably wouldn’t recognize me.” You know, I’d be acknowledged for my artistry but not hounded or bothered in private. But apparently that type of fame has been eradicated by a stream of Snookis and octomoms, and the worse the behavior, the bigger the celebrity. So this week’s song is a musical musing on life, fame, and what makes someone truly noteworthy.