Saturday, January 04, 2014

In which I once again meditate on the cult of celebrity...

If you follow along here, you have probably noticed that I'm fascinated with celebrity and the culture that has grown around folks who are well-known in areas like film, television, politics, and sports. So, this story at bleacher report caught my eye.

It seems that basketball player LeBron James got carded in a hotel bar last night. Now, this is amusing, since he is a well-known athlete who is known to be of an age to drink and has been for a few years. I can see how that could get reported in our culture of watching every little move that celebrities make. But a few things caught my eye as being a little over the top in this story/blog post/whatever the hell it is.

First of all, one of the reasons the gentleman who wrote the post gave (there were five on the list) for why James shouldn't have been carded is that he is "one of the most in-shape-looking people in the world". Honestly? I'm not sure what looking in shape has to do with it. There are people in incredible physical shape who are under-age.

But the reason on the list that made me stop and think, "What the...?" was this one: "He's one of the most recognizable people on the planet."


Okay. I've heard the name LeBron James. I know he's a professional basketball player. But that's about it.

I wouldn't know him to look at him if my life depended on it, and that doesn't concern me greatly. I'll bet there are more people in the world who wouldn't recognize him on the street than there are folks who would. So, when the report begins to revolve around speculation that he was carded because either 1) the bartender wanted to "spend more time with the superstar" or that b) the bartender was "legally blind" and had to "rely on a seeing-eye dog" to do his job, I had to read that paragraph twice to confirm that what I was reading was really there on the screen rather than just me imagining it.

And I wonder a couple of things. Number one, is this writer really so blinded by celebrity himself that he imagines that those he sees as celebrities are universally recognized? The other is, where did he get the idea that it's cool to disparage people (he was basically calling the bartender ignorant) by calling them disabled? The first is just garden-variety celebrity worship, and I suppose it is possible that it was the reason the bartender carded James. Even though, it's still unsupported speculation.

But the second shot at the bartender? That's just unacceptable. I thought we got past that sort of thing long ago. Apparently not, though.

So, just a clue by four (or two) for the writer: No matter how famous someone is, there are still millions - billions, probably - people who have no idea who they are. And, more important, we don't equate disability with stupidity or ignorance. It isn't cool and it isn't cute.

No comments: