Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fame



“Yesterday my girl said, ‘Mom, I know I’m gonna be famous really soon’. I’m so proud of her. She’s got confidence.” A girlfriend of mine in Orange County mentioned this as we were heading to lunch last week. Her daughter is 13. I was astonished.

Whatever happened to “I want to be a doctor when I grow up” or “I want to travel the world when I grow up” or “I dunno mom, I think I want to be just like you”? But this is the culture of Southern California. Buy, buy, buy or you’ll look and feel inferior! Replace your flesh with plastic wherever possible. Banish your wrinkles. Scrape your face with acid. Stop eating. And don’t forget to shop. Forget about your education or saving the world or your studies or anything else old fashioned that requires time and energy. The best outcome is fame. Better get there quickly. And don’t make any unnecessary stops along the way.

I’ve been living in Orange County for four years and slowly the muck has begun to settle in my brain. I think it’s the Paris Hilton syndrome – be famous for no apparent reason. I interviewed an analyst once who called Hilton the Bubonic Plague of the 20th century. I liked that phrase a lot but I can’t blame Hilton for the soul-crushing atmosphere in both L.A. County and O.C.
It manifests itself in many ways. First it’s almost impossible to make really good friends in L.A. I mean the really good kind of girlfriends who’ll be there for you in a heartbeat, say, when you break-up with a guy, or your house burns down or your pet dies or whatever.

A bunch of actresses I’ve interviewed have said this – from Sandra Oh to Kristen Bell to Hayden Panettiere to Salma Hayek. I don’t know why this is the case. It may be that everyone is competing for the all-seeing eye, attention from the paps and tabloids and Entertainment Tonight so standing on your own apart from the crowd guarantees you 14 seconds in the news lineup.

I don’t know why I find this so disturbing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting attention. Toddlers do it because they want to be the centre of the universe. But for little ones it’s a survival issue. If no one hears you screeching you might not get your dinner. As for people who yearn for attention later in life, I don’t know how to explain it later in life. Maybe it’s the money. Typically with fame comes money. But not always.

I have to think about this some more to explain my love and loathing of Los Angeles. As for my friend’s daughter? Well, she’s only in Grade 7 so I’ll keep you posted.

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