The Fame Game1 Nov 2011
Dear Fans and Regular Readers, as Malaysia’s pre-eminent celebrity and world famous man of mystery, I am more than qualified to pass judgment on this business of fame.
I was in a bar — hard to believe, I know — yesterday and they have a poster on their wall from a well-known channel that deals with Food in Asia. They were advertising for applicants for their latest reality television programme, called “Asia’s Next Celebrity Chef.”
Don’t worry, I’m not going to apply. If you have sampled any of my cooking before, you’ll be glad to know I’m not intending to inflict that on any living, civilised human being. Or even the judges on a reality television show. Besides, I only really have two dishes and I don’t expect the judges are going to look favourably on either the Pot Noodle or the Sausage Sandwich.
The reason this poster caught my eye was that it made literally no sense to me. I read it and read it again before realising that it wasn’t an error and what this show wants to “find” is literally the next celebrity chef, sorry, the Next Celebrity Chef.
Things really have come to this. The word “celebrity” has taken over our lives. Every event needs one of them, magazines can’t publish without them, every brand and advertisement has to have one or more to embody their identity, and every single television programme in the world has to feature celebrities. And when a member of the public accidentally slips onto television they are instantly transformed into a celebrity. Things have now, apparently, got so bad that even Reality TV, by very definition the point of which is to feature the one per cent of the population not in some ways already a “celebrity”, has turned these individuals into the very thing that they are supposed not to be.
But Asia’s Next Celebrity Chef really takes the (presumably Gourmet) biscuit. How precisely are we supposed to “find” the Next Celebrity Chef? If they are a celebrity, surely we The Fame Game have, by definition, already found them and their fame is such that they are a celebrity? And if they are a celebrity then why are they competing on a show against a bunch of nobodies?
The idea, it seems, is to “create” a Celebrity Chef. Dr Frankenstein and monsters come to mind.
Aside: I would like to formally apologise for the number of quote marks in this article. It really isn’t my fault. These people are driving me to it. I’ll try to cut back from now on.
I remember a column in this very magazine by the late, great Bill Pelham (by late I don’t mean he’s deceased, just that he was always running behind schedule when it was his turn to buy the drinks) who commented on one of his mates that used to go bananas at the use of the word “famous” (sorry) as it doesn’t mean anything. If someone is famous the word is superfluous and if the person isn’t famous then it’s a lie. I feel the same way about “celebrity” (sorry again).
There will come a saturation point. There will be so many celebrities that “ordinary people” (really, I’m sorry), will have a revolution. If you think this year’s riots in London or the revolutions in the Middle East were bad, imagine millions of irate middle class Westerners brandishing copies of ‘Hello’ magazine as they storm the offices of television channels in protest at the incessant and unrelenting presentation of celebrities into our lives. They can’t take it anymore because when they go into their corner shop for a carton of milk there is a documentary crew in there filming the staff, so they go down the pub and find the heats for TV’s ‘Malaysia’s Best Barman’, and then get a taxi home, which ends in farce when the driver has to detour to avoid a group of contestants ice skating down a freshly-frozen Bukit Bintang as the first to get to the bottom wins RM10,000 and a place in the Malaysian Winter Olympics team.
Friends, fans and readers, the point is that some people aren’t cut out for a life of fame, riches and success. They should leave that to the likes of me.