Eisenbud’s Odyssey: Celebrating celebrity celluloid

Woody Allen once said that you can tell a lot about a society based on whom they celebrate.

Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Have you ever considered that if aliens came to earth, presumably unable to read, based on media imagery alone, they would likely conclude that Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga were some sort of deities – and have no idea whatsoever who people like Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins or Mother Teresa were?
I can just imagine how official introductions would go down.
KK: “Like, it’s soooo chill that you guys totally made the trip to our awesome planet! It’s amaaaazing here! Oh my God – you look just like my stepdad Bruce, except you’re three feet shorter and have no hair or ears! Do you guys have an agent yet? Mom, you have to see this! Call Seacrest NOW!!
“Oh, don’t mind all the cameras following me around – they film everything I do because I’m a star – like in the sky, where you came from. Oh my God! It’s like we’re already connected! That’s sooooo… cosmic!
“I made a ‘private’ video a while back, and became the biggest star in the world after everyone saw it and found out how talented I am. Now little girls everywhere want to be just like me! Cool, right? It’s totally a big responsibility shaping young minds, but I like to give back, you know?
“Also, I’m in Tyler Perry’s new movie, so pleeeeeeeease check that out before you leave. OK? I’m soooooo nervous about it and need all the support I can get, especially from a new demographic like you thingies.
Do you guys get E! on your planet?
“Also, like totally ignore Khloe, OK? She’s being such a bitch today! I hate you, Khloe! You’re fat!”
JB: “Whoah! You guys are soooo cool looking! Wanna be in my next video? We’d totally save tons of money on CGI effects! Mom, call Seacrest NOW!
“You guys like Gummy Bears, Cheetos, Slim Jims or Red Bull? I got plenty to go around… It’s in my contract’s rider clause, so don’t be shy, dawgs. Oh yeah – just in case, I got some green M&Ms and taffy over there by that pink Lamborghini.
“Also, I totally hope that alien fathers and boyfriends treat their daughters and girls right on your planet, because if they don’t I’m soooo gonna write a song about it to expose you and let all the Martian daughters and girlfriends out there know that I care about them, too. So don’t push me, a-wight?
“Hey! You guys wanna smell my new perfume, eat Pop Rocks, then shoot some hoops?”
(Note to readers: I omitted  Lady Gaga dialogue because I simply have no idea what she might say, even under normal circumstances.)
WOODY ALLEN once said that you can tell a lot about a society based on whom they celebrate. If that’s true, then I think it’s fair to say that we have more problems than a high-school math book.
Look, I’m sure Justin’s a great kid and that Kim K. – when she’s not attending the opening of an envelope – has some really nice qualities. (As for Lady Gaga, again, I just don’t know.)
But the bottom line is that the disproportionate attention and compensation these people receive is profoundly disturbing – and debilitating to the evolution of meaningful discourse, thought, culture and our general future – on multiple levels.
Indeed, more often than not, life imitates what passes for “art.” This being the case, all things considered, we’re getting perilously close to creating a generation that emulates people who should be little more than a mediocre punch line.
LISTEN, I’M not trying to be a sanctimonious bore, and genuinely appreciate the need for doses of entertaining escapism – even mindless stupidity – in a time when reality is less than appealing.
I enjoy Farrelly Brothers movies, Beavis & Butthead, UFC sporting events and bush-league magazines as much as the next guy. In fact, when I was a kid, I would have sold my soul to the devil in a heartbeat to have traded places with The Fonz, Mr. T or Luke Skywalker. Hell, maybe even Chewbacca. But that was normal back then. (Except for maybe the Chewbacca thing. What can I say? I love Wookies.)
However, as an adult, I realize the importance of prioritizing and sharing elevated thought, and therefore find it alarming how many other adults live in an otherwise arrested state of development propagated by the media – which actively attempts to raise vacuity to high art by hero-worshipping individuals with no utilitarian value beyond their highly lucrative titillation and shock value.
Meanwhile, the true heroes of society – teachers, scientists, writers, humanitarians, mathematicians, stay-at-home moms, social activists, etc. – who should rightly be elevated to celebrity status, barely make a living, have their inspiring stories routinely relegated to the back pages of newspapers and magazines (if they’re there at all) and live in complete, unappreciated anonymity.
PERSONALLY I always judged the true value and talent of people based on how their work would endure if they somehow became disfigured or physically handicapped.
For example, let’s say the tragic aforementioned scenario occurred to the highest-paid, most famous celebrities in the world – mostly actors, athletes, models and pop singers.
My guess is that the vast majority would be out of work within minutes.
The same cannot be said about the millions of hard-working men and women who use their minds instead of their aesthetic appeal to make a living. Indeed, their physical appearance has virtually no bearing on their contributions to society, and they know that outlandish behavior only devalues their work.
In my humble opinion, no one engenders the notion of mind over matter more than the awe-inspiring Hawking, and every man, woman and child on the planet should know who he is.
UNTIL INDIVIDUALS like Hawking and the countless nameless and faceless role models out there are elevated to the social strata of Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian, et al, we are destined to raise a generation of fame-seekers who believe that success can be quantified by Nielsen points and physical perfection.
Perhaps it’s time for a massive paradigm shift, where those at the top of the pyramid of success are celebrated for their contributions to society, not their exploitation of it.
If things don’t change soon, we may run the risk of a generational epidemic defined by self-aggrandizing people who refer to themselves in the third person.
At least, that’s what Daniel K. Eisenbud thinks.
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