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04 Feb 2012 - 01:21:16 am

CELEBRITY KILLED THE HERO

When I was two years old, two men climbed the highest mountain in the world, the first ever to do so.  At shortly after 11 am on May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and the sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest, at over 29,000 ft, the highest spot on earth. For a brief time - by our more common standards - they were elebrities. 
They had achieved something, had proved something of the human spirit, had overcome incredible odds. Years later, I could scarcely wait to read Hillary's account in High Adventure: The True Story of the First Ascent of Everest. Before him, the utterly unassuming Irishman Tom Crean had, provisioned with nothing more than a bar of chocolate, walked across the freezing ice and snow of Antarctica in an attempt to bring aid to his stricken comrades; he spoke little if anything of this hell-trip to his family. A celebrity, surely. But these men and many others like them are of no importance now. God knows, they wouldn't merit ten minutes on the cosy advertising and self-promotion slot that is RTE's dreadful The Late Late Show. They don't have the boob-jobs, the self-pitying rehab stories, nor, God help us, the legs and accompanying lack of talent for that. Hillary's book wouldn't be cool enough for mention on one of the 'arts' shows that pass for cultural broadcasting on RTE radio or TV. If Hillary inspired boys like me to want to explore, be brave and tackle the world, and if the magical George Best - the first, sadly, of the media 'ikons' in our time - drove us in the street to try our poor skills as footballers, then one must pity the children now who are inspired to be 'famous' by flashing their breasts or boasting of what it's like to come off hard drugs, while promoting a new album or book or movie. Worse, we have now grown 'celebrities' who contribute nothing at all; some are 'celebs' because of the footballer they slept with or are separated from. The majority of our media puppets are young women. They have agents and they are out to make money, by betraying their one-night-stand lovers to the tabloids. The greater number are ill-educated, check-out fodder before they found the millionaire soccer player or rock star who 'elevated' them into celeb-dom. And we crave to read about their lives, their problems, their addictions, their illnesses. Young men - and the not so young - ogle their TV-tanned legs and enhanced breasts, which are to the poor girls what the ascent of Everest was to Hillary. Television talk shows chew them up and spit them out, overpaid hosts try to humour them and get them to make faux-pas, while somewhere the cash-registers churn and chink. Where Crean risked his life, these not-much-more-than-children risk their dignity; but dignity is a four-letter world these days and doesn't make money. No one can afford it. Good-looking, young, some of them seem to see sex as an achievement, a ticket out of the sink-estate, a way to forget their near-miss with obscurity. Like the Media Celebrity of Them All, Marilyn Monroe, they are not loved, only desired. No one wanted to Monroe to read Joyce's Ulysses. The media wanted her legs, her hospitalisations, her death. Media celebrity and tragedy walk hand in hand. The word 'ikon' - from the Greek, eikon, a religious devotional image - is continually abused and maimed to describe a sexualised young girl singer, yet never is it used to describe Nelson, who refused medical treatment for fear he would not last until Trafalgar had been won. No one describes James Connolly as an ikon. Language has been twisted by the twist-meisters and degraded to their use. Pre-pubescent girls want to be 'famous' because a woman in her thirties is famous for flashing her legs, boobs, and backside for the cameras. None want to be Freya Stark. And who remembers Lance Corporal James White (28) from Cappawhite, Co Tipperary, who recently was presented with the Military Cross by the Queen for his heroic acts, which included crawling under fire across 200 yards of open ground to take out a firing position and save his comrades? No celebrity he, no talk-show appearances for a young man who risked his life. He hasn't got the legs, the boob-job. These days celebrities are by and large nonentities, capable of little more than an appetite - or ambition - to be on a panel of judges mewling to script about some much more talented poor bastard who is singing his heart out, yet who hasn't yet got 'it,' whatever the Hell that means. As if they, poor damsels, ever had 'it' or much else. Lauren Bacall looks terrific in her eighties and is as hard as nails. Jodie Foster is a great actress and manages her own career and speaks more languages than God. But she is no ikon. She is also, to my mind, with Bacall, beautiful in a way the tabloids don't understand. Bacall sat on top of a piano while President Harry Truman played for her - so top that, girls! No one thinks either of explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes - who cut his fingers off with a penknife when frostbite took over - as a celebrity or an ikon, but if not people like these, then who? We live in a society without standards of virtually anything, so it seems natural that we don't recognise the fake and the fanciful when it is shown to us. There are no depths to which we will not urge our young girls and guys to stoop to be in the paper or on the TV. Talentless they may be, but good for a laugh. And perhaps, wickedly, that's the answer: we want clowns, and the modern day celebrity is a clown above all else. A forgettable clown. Bravery, achievement, courage, duty - none of this matters, because those who possess these virtues are rarely clowns. The true heroes of our time are those who take to the streets and protest against injustice. They alone risk imprisonment and violence. Few become footballers' wives. Few become rich. They have too much spirit for the media men and the TV producers. There are no Page Three girls manning barricades. La Passionaria, Dolores Ibárruri, would not have had us ogling her legs on The Late Late Show.

- Dolores Ibárruri - La Passionaria.
                

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http://johnston.sosblogs.com/The-first-blog-b1/CELEBRITY-KILLED-THE-HERO-b1-p30.htm

Comments

Comment from: Hugh McFadden [ Visitor ]
A fine piece of brooding, Fred, on our post-modern age of phony "celebrity" culture. That comment about La Passionaria, Dolores Ibárruri, is strikingly true, althogh a bunch of topless young poseurs did flaunt their breasts, artificially enhanced or otherwise, at the grateful photographers in Davos recently. No fear that those lassies would pose topless on a real barricade when the bullets were flying around them! We live in a completely crass, degraded, public culture. As for La Passionaria, do you knowthe little verse by John Jordan about her return to Spain after the death of Franco?
'The honourable old woman returns/ Treasured by all: even brown./ The forty years have been worth it,/ But the cracked heart knows its frown.
Not alone Spain's spirit/ But of all who care/ For dignity, love, comradeship,/ For minutes night rare./
And I think of Kathleen Daly Clarke/ Whom we exported to English welfare,/ And her spouse the tobacconist.' .....
The 'tobacconist', of course, was the 1916 signatory Thomas Clarke.
   2012-02-04 @ 05:20:39 pm
Comment from: Hugh McFadden [ Visitor ]
A fine piece of brooding, Fred, on our post-modern age of phony "celebrity" culture. That comment about La Passionaria, Dolores Ibárruri, is strikingly true, althogh a bunch of topless young poseurs did flaunt their breasts, artificially enhanced or otherwise, at the grateful photographers in Davos recently. No fear that those lassies would pose topless on a real barricade when the bullets were flying around them! We live in a completely crass, degraded, public culture. As for La Passionaria, do you knowthe little verse by John Jordan about her return to Spain after the death of Franco?
'The honourable old woman returns/ Treasured by all: even brown./ The forty years have been worth it,/ But the cracked heart knows its frown.
Not alone Spain's spirit/ But of all who care/ For dignity, love, comradeship,/ For minutes night rare./
And I think of Kathleen Daly Clarke/ Whom we exported to English welfare,/ And her spouse the tobacconist.' .....
The 'tobacconist', of course, was the 1916 signatory Thomas Clarke.
   2012-02-04 @ 05:18:55 pm
Comment from: Sean Maguire [ Visitor ]
Brilliant Fred. Just wonderful. Hitting nails firmly on their heads. A joy to read as depressing the subject matter is! Thank you!
   2012-02-04 @ 04:37:05 pm

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