Being a celebrity requires being known. It’s almost too obvious to state — but that’s pretty much the definition.
And of course, there are differing levels to fame. An internationally-known name is no doubt a celebrity, but someone could also be famous to a niche or incredibly-specific group of people. In my experiences, campus celebrities are certainly a thing; they’re the people on your campus that just about everyone seems to know, usually from a very odd and very wide variety of involvements and/or expansive list of funny anecdotes or situations.
While this is the base level, there are of course more aspects to fame than just being known. For example, to become a celebrity, you’re almost required to sell out. It sounds harsh, but it’s true.
Recently, the Taylor Swift-Ticketmaster debacle comes to mind as a perfect example of this. In short, the presale for Swift’s “Eras” tour opened in November of 2022, and the site traffic overwhelmed Ticketmaster’s website. Fans experienced long wait times and glitches, and many were unable to secure tickets. At first, these issues were downplayed by Ticketmaster, but a few days later, the website canceled the general public sale, citing “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”
A lot of the initial criticism went toward Ticketmaster for mishandling the sale. Swift eventually released a statement about the whole thing, even “calling out” Ticketmaster herself. She mentioned being “extremely protective” of her fans and even went so far as to say she wasn’t “going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could.” And of course, pop culture articles with titles like “Taylor Swift is just as mad at Ticketmaster as you are” popped up almost immediately.
But is she?
Of course, the near-monopoly Ticketmaster has on ticketing sales isn’t something that should be excused or ignored. However, buying tickets comes with certain difficulties that fall on the shoulders of artists themselves to fix, like pricing and pricing tiers, reserving tickets for specific groups and whether or not to allow resales. Some of these decisions might make ticket sales less profitable for artists, like refusing to use Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing system that adjusts prices based on demand. While it is still unclear if the dynamic pricing system was used in the “Eras” presale, these kinds of choices are available to all artists — they just have to make the call.
So, while she expressed sympathy that a lot of fans got hurt in the battle for “Eras” tour tickets, Swift still pocketed the money at the end of the day, while depicting a lot of the situation as being beyond her control — when really, it’s unclear if this is the case.
Believe me, I’m a Swiftie. I’ve listened to her music since I was a kid and am always willing to praise a lot of what she’s done. That being said, Swift is still a celebrity — a pretty large one at that. And because of this, she seems to spend a lot of her time pretending to care.
It’s not just Swift. We can also think back to 2020, at the peak of COVID-19 restrictions, when a group of celebrities led by Gal Gadot released a video cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” as an attempt to bring people together during what was a pretty scary time. I will say, the video was pretty cringe worthy. But beyond the actual production and execution of the video, the idea of a bunch of really rich and famous people singing a line or two from a song to “bring people together” amid an unprecedented pandemic — where people were literally dying — is laughable. This is the kind of “pretending to care” that I’m talking about.
Perhaps there could be some perfect celebrity out there that I’m unaware of. Even barring that, there are certainly philanthropic celebrities, or famous humanitarians that do good on some level. It is 100% possible for people to use their platform for good. Unfortunately, this is a rarity. Fame, to some degree, inherently separates one from typical life; this makes celebrities pretty out of touch from the average person. It’s not that Swift doesn’t care at all about her fans, but on some levels, she chose profit over fair ticket sales for her “Eras” tour. It’s not that the celebrities in the “Imagine” video didn’t want to bring people together at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that their method of doing so was out of touch and in poor taste.
This is kind of just how it is, as I can’t see us as a society stopping making people famous anytime soon. I’m also fully aware that celebrities don’t love this aspect of fame, often speaking out about its many downsides and a desire to live a normal life. Even still, there is a disconnect here. While I’m not saying we should #CancelAllFamousPeople; I do, however, believe we should think a little more critically about what kind of attention we give to our favorite celebrities. Should we really praise Swift for releasing a statement defending her fans? Or should we question how the sale was set up in the first place, seemingly without putting fans’ best interests at the forefront? Does a video of some celebrities singing “Imagine” really help people during a pandemic? Would some other kind of tangible aid be more beneficial? Really, we should question the amount of praise we’re willing to offer to celebrities for doing the bare minimum — if even that.