How have celebrities become famous?
An ex-celebrity tells why being famous is terrible
"You don't belong, you are not really real," writes Justine Bateman in her book Fame: The Hijacking of Reality about being famous. "You're not even really there. You are not there. You change everything when you enter a room, but you are not there at all. We can talk about you as if you weren't here. You are a non-person . We can pull on you because you're not real. It's like in a movie when they kill a lifelike robot, a replica. Should we feel bad about it? Apologize? "
Justine was a star as a teenager. In the early to late 80s she was the actress on the hit US sitcom Family ties. Before there were hundreds of cable channels and streaming sites, millions of people turned on the television for every episode. Justine Bateman was incredibly famous.
Fame had its advantages: helicopters, limousines, backstage passes and police officers who turned a blind eye. But the bad side outweighed it. Justine couldn't relax in public because of a stalker. At night, people drove past her house and shouted the name of her series character. Newspapers printed falsehoods about her, and years later when she put her name on Google she ended up on forums where people refer to her as a sea witch and meth addict.
The 52-year-old describes all of this in Fame: The Hijacking of Reality. It reads like a horror novel. In it, fame becomes a somber entity that can distort reality and cause friends, family, and the public to turn against you. We spoke to Justine Bateman about her book, fame, and what it's like to lose it.
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VICE: Was star life really as bad as you describe it in the book?
Justine Bateman: Of course everyone has different experiences. Personally, however, I never felt like I was riding the wave of fame. He rode me. I was just trying to keep up. At 16, 19, 20 you simply go along with everything that happens around you. When your ascent is happening so quickly, requests come in quick succession - interviews, photo shoots, promotional offers, and so on. It all happens so quickly. You can think of it as in the old Lucille ball sketch where she has to pack chocolates on the conveyor belt. You're just trying to keep up.
Is everything really just bad?
There are also good sides. People listen to you. You get plenty of offers. And coming to any club when you are in your early twenties is of course nice too. But when you have to deal with all of these other things at the same time, it's hard to enjoy the beautiful parts. It's like running a marathon at 40 degrees with someone holding beautiful pictures in front of your nose. It's hard to focus on one thing when you're so busy.
Were you scared of writing this book? It is not always welcomed when people complain about their fame.
It was definitely not my goal to complain about anything. I wanted to show what it's like to be famous and how society relates to it. I wanted to talk about this cycle and explore why we find fame so desirable in the first place.
You are still in the world of stars and you have a very famous brother. d. R .: actor Jason Bateman]. How has the treatment of celebrities changed since you were a star?
When I was super famous, TV and movie stars were treated very differently. This limit does not seem to be so sharp today, also because many today do both. I also noticed that the admiration is mostly online today. It used to be through personal contact or in the form of fan mail. Today there is a forum or a website for every little heart emoji that is only there to poke fun at you.
What shocked me most was the passage in your book when you Googled yourself.
Yes, that was really bad. That was a mistake I would like to undo. I googled my name and Google added "... looks old". I was 44.
I actually always looked young for my age. Without wanting to sound arrogant, I always felt that my looks were my capital. I was considered attractive by social standards. When I was in my early twenties, I couldn't wait to look like Anna Magnani or Isabelle Huppert. These great European actresses with the prominent cheekbones, the tired look and the dark circles under the eyes. When my face finally began to take on some character at 42, 44, I was so happy. However, I did my math without our society, which was moving in a completely different direction. Today everyone tries to remove any character from their faces through cosmetic surgery, make-up and Instagram filters. You want to get as close as possible to your baby photos.
So when I entered my name on Google and the page added "looks old", I no longer understood the world. I clicked on one of the results. A huge mistake. It was a lot worse than I could have imagined. Just awful, because I didn't understand what these people were talking about. I couldn't see what they were seeing. I looked at the photo, read the comments, and looked back at the photo. It was a bit like the dress, which is blue for some and white for others. But only here was I the only one who saw blue.
There is this great experiment in which a test person has to evaluate the length of a line. Actually, the result is clear and will be solved correctly by the test person. However, because three initiated test participants after him insist on a different result, the test subject is finally unsettled and changes his answer.
I felt the same way. I just didn't understand how everyone else could see something that was hidden from me. I came to the conclusion that I had lied to myself all these years and took her point of view. That really got me down for several years.
In what way?
My fear was simply that that aspect of my reality, my celebrity, was gone. It wasn't about mourning my status. When someone close to you dies, you suddenly have to move to another city or you lose your job, an important part of the reality of your life breaks away. For many, this can be a traumatic experience. So if awareness is a constant in your life and it suddenly falls away, it can be disturbing.
What was it like to lose that status?
It was a slow process. At first you don't really notice it. The hustle and bustle around you subsides a bit, but you think that you will rise again with the next project. A bit like the stock market: There are ups and downs, but you never end up at the bottom. It just doesn't cross your mind at all.
The real descent is like sand that slips between your fingers. You can't stop it. It's like going down a hill in a go-kart, with no engine, no brakes. All you have left is to try to avoid a nasty accident by steering. On this descent you have to let go of certain things. Your self-image, your ego, your self-esteem, your concerns about your career. I had to work a lot on myself, I wrote a lot.
Fame is unpredictable. Something that you cannot control. And because so much of your life depends on it, there is this fear. Because of this, it can sometimes be uncomfortable or even frightening to be around someone whose fame has faded. A journalist recently asked me: "What if the book suddenly makes you famous again?" I immediately felt a sense of discomfort and said, "I don't want that." And what for? What would I get out of it?
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