Celebrity & Our Domesticated Deities

Found at bookforum.com, linking to TomDispatch.com, is this entertaining but caustic look at humanity’s long obsession with celebrity, written by Lewis Lapham:

Domesticated Deities
About Messiahs Come to Redeem Our Country, Not Govern It (and Don’t Forget Marilyn and Elvis and Jackie O and Diana and Oprah and Brangelina and David Hasselhoff) By Lewis Lapham

Glory is like a circle in the water,

Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,

Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought.
— William Shakespeare

Label celebrity a consumer society’s most precious consumer product, and eventually it becomes the hero with a thousand faces, the packaging of the society’s art and politics, the framework of its commerce, and the stuff of its religion. Such a society is the one that America has been attempting to make for itself since John F. Kennedy was king in Camelot, and the collective effort — nearly 50 years of dancing with the stars under the disco balls in Hollywood, Washington, and Wall Street — deserves an appreciation of the historical antecedents.

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Virginia Postrel on Glamour

Bright and articulate Virginia Postrel wrote one of my favorite non-fiction books, The Future and It’s Enemies, which I covered here. She “is a writer and cultural critic who examines the hidden economics of modern society, poking at the unexamined ideas behind the march of progress.” In this video, she talks about glamour where she “muses on the true meaning, and the powerful uses, of glamour—which she defines as any calculated, carefully polished image designed to impress and persuade.” She calls it “transcending the everyday,” which invites us into another world—a false world—with a quality that gets us to an idealized place. It invites us but doesn’t give a clear picture. She defines sprezzatura, an Italian word appropriate to her topic. And there is a danger to glamour….

Check out the video.

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