The icon. The hero. The superstar. The one who is everything we desire to be, yet cannot be. Will never be. In kinder, gentler times, we allowed our heroes to scale great heights, saw in their climb some hope for our own victory. We cheered them on, their fame a mechanism for our own transcendence. It was only when we realized that their success would be of no use to us, that our redemption through their stardom was a lie, that we began to throw stones, to knock down those we had idolized only moments before. If they could not bring us up to their level, we'd bring them back down to ours. Then we went searching for a replacement. Now, humiliation is the price of admission. Paris Hilton, Ben Affleck, Jessica Simpson, The Bachelor, The Swan, The American Idol. We demand celebrities we cannot respect. It is as if we finally understand that the superstar will never free us from the mundanity of our own lives. And we hate them for it.
We still create stars, but only after the candidate has relinquished their dignity, something we, of course, would never dream of doing. Unless and until we get the opportunity to take their place. Most of these poor, unfortunate souls will be quickly discarded, their future the final degradation offered by tabloids or scandalous courtroom drama. But for those select few whose stars burn brightly and continuously in the collective consciousness, who can truly do no wrong--for it is not allowed--the price is highest. They must allow us to deify them. For, as Harry Crews has written, "Men to whom God is dead worship one another." The cost is far too steep, the lie far too big to be sustained. The price, ultimately, is death. And in that death comes the greatest fame.