Our society loves the famous, and the glamour of being famous, yet I think we have a rather narrow range of professions in which people become famous. Quite naturally, the most famous in our society are the people who work in front of cameras: movie stars, television stars, sports stars. Musicians are less famous because they aren’t on television as much, and the more famous of rock stars seem to be due to media exposure rather than just musical ability. If you want your song to become a hit, you have to make yourself famous.
With the Internet, people are gaining fame through online exposure, but more often than not, it’s because of video hijinks. YouTube now allows anyone to produce themselves as their own star. See “The Impact of the Like Button.”
Fame drives ambition, so kids want to grow up and become the kind of people we see on screens – television screens, movie theater screens, computer screens, tablet screens and smart phone screens. This limits what professions kids will think about when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I’m thinking we need to make more types of professionals famous.
Take for instance architects. PBS has a new series Super Skyscrapers that is about building monstrous structures that would make the Tower of Babel dinky. Their episode on the Shanghai Tower, about a 121 floor “vertical city” was mind boggling. The feat of designing such a building is so tremendous that I have to wonder why such a person isn’t more famous than any movie or pop star on the planet. Of course, Shanghai Tower wasn’t designed by one man, but a firm, Gensler, but even still, they should be as famous as any rock band. But I can’t name them.
How many professions out there are so cool, so important, so dazzling, that their best practitioners should be famous? Shouldn’t doctors who develop new techniques to cure cancer be more famous Justin Bieber? Shouldn’t the creators of the Mars rovers or space telescopes be more famous than Miley Cyrus? Shouldn’t the top philanthropists get as much attention as Olympic athletes? Would two weeks of fame every four years inspire more people to change the world for the better? Hell, I think there should be a weekly show devoted to such people.
Since people love CSI shows so much, why don’t we have weekly shows about real criminal investigators? Our cities are plagued by crime, so why not focus on real crimes being solve by real people?
Why do we need so many reality shows about faked reality when we have so much far out real reality to film?
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates became famous, but why aren’t the programmers of all the apps and games we use today not famous? Things do change, because chefs have gotten famous lately. And I assume because of that, more kids want to take up the culinary profession.
I love The Big Bang Theory, but why not have a weekly show about real scientists and engineers and what they really do? Would a weekly show about particle physicists around the world encourage more kids to study math and science harder in school?
I can’t help but believe if we made more smart people famous then kids might choose to become smarter.
JWH – 2/21/14