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Now I'll Be Famous

In January 2007 the Pew Research Center released their report "A Portrait of 'Generation Next.'" It reveals that among those surveyed between the ages 18 and 25, 81% chose "To get rich" and 51% chose "To be famous" as one of their top two goals in life. This represents a significant split from the previous generation, ages 26 to 40, 62% and 29% of whom, respectively, chose the same goals.

This makes perfect sense to me, one firmly planted in Gen X. I and many of my friends would never have chosen either answer as our top two goals. It's not that we're great humanitarians. We want to be rich and famous as any American would be. But the response lacks a key component that would have stopped me from selecting it: rich from what? and famous for what? That so many Gen Nexters unquestioningly believe wealth and fame to be goals in and of themselves is quite telling.

Therefore, though saddened, I was not surprised to learn that the young man who went on a shooting spree in an Omaha, Nebraska, mall earlier this week wrote "now I'll be famous" in his suicide note. Has a more chillingly concise summation of our time been penned?

Our era values fame to an unprecedented degree. We're given the perception that fame is easier to gain than ever. Too bad reality TV and YouTube and the other tools that enhance that perception of access to fame—that spur our fascination with fame—weren't enough for a troubled teen with equal access to a gun.

1 comment:

Porpentine11 said...

I’m not sure that the presence of a group aspiring to be rich-and/or-famous without considering the key questions rich from what? or famous for what is a clear example of a X-generation phenomena. The age group, between 18 and 25, seems a bit young for Gen. X. The youngest of those surveyed would have been 3 and the oldest 10 when Douglas Coupland’s Generation X (1992) came out, for example. No doubt those surveyed were influenced by Gen X., but they are no more than “onlookers: the parade [has] gone by and [they are] already getting everything secondhand, consumers,” to borrow Thomas Pynchon’s description of his relationship to the Beat Generation during the late 1950s. More to the point, I recall a slew of friends blindly dreaming of becoming rich and famous before Gen. X had become a media buzz phrase. I myself remember trying to convince a friend that the key to becoming famous, if not rich, was hanging out with the right people. Yoko Ono was my model. (Having romanticized poverty, I had dreams of slumming it—a dream that made graduate school easier to bear, I tell myself now—but fame, at least before I realized it required being sociable, had its appeal. How I imagined I would hang out with the right people without being sociable is a contradiction I refused to see back then, I’m afraid.) In any case, it seems to me that the I-want-to-be-rich-and/or-famous without considering the from and the for questions is more an outgrowth of the commoditization of rich-and-famous people, something that goes back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, if not before, and perhaps the commoditization of the counterculture, which goes back to the 1960s or maybe the 1950s.