In Aaron Sorkin‘s wonderful Oscar acceptance speech for his screenplay for The Social Network, he paid homage to the classic 1976 film Network. The recent triumph of substance of The Kings’ Speech at the Oscars stands in such stark contrast to the current Charlie Sheen debacle that it indeed reminds me of Network‘s Howard Beale and his crusade against the triviality of our current celebrity culture.
The other night, Charlie Sheen was the lead story on many national newscasts, pushing stories about Libya and our financial crisis to later in the broadcasts. Charlie Sheen. Really? Really ? Where is Howard Beale when we need him most?
Paging Howard Beale: Triviality Trumps Substance
Remember the times when achieving something artistically actually had to happen before someone was considered a celebrity?
Andy Warhol was more prescient than he could have imagined when he said that everyone in the world would eventually have his or her own fifteen minutes of fame.
Would that it was only fifteen minutes.
Whereas the fan magazines of yesteryear glorified movie and television actors and actresses, the new twenty-four cable stations have created a celebrity culture where truly anyone can lay claim to being a celebrity by simply seeking that celebrity.
No talent whatsoever is required.
Even for legitimate celebrities, the magic and mystique are gone because they are so overexposed so constantly and also because the word “celebrity” has been so denigrated.
Case in point: Kate Gosselin, whose primary “ability” seems to be her willingness to exploit her own children, and whose claim to being a celebrity is rooted only in her desire to be considered as such. Gosselin is, nevertheless, actually referred to as a celebrity by much of the so-called mainstream media.
Gosselin even recently was reportedly paid five hundred thousand dollars to appear on Dancing With The Stars.
Meryl Streep is a star. Kate Gosselin? Not so much.
Instead, however, the next night he urges all his viewers to go to their windows and scream out to the world:
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Of course, his ratings go through the roof.
At that point, the entertainment division of the network takes over the nightly news and turns it into a sideshow that, of course, becomes an ever-bigger success.
Today, the excesses of the celebrity culture have fallen so far into the realm of absurdity that they make the satire of Network look quaint by comparison.”