Celebrity: (noun) 1. A well known person. 2. Fame, being famous.
No doubt every simian tribe of hunter-gatherers had their local celebrities: the woman who gave birth to quintuplets, the boy who swallowed a porcupine and survived, the man who wrestled with a tyrannosaurus and... well, he probably would have died, but celebrity status would have been applied posthumously.
If, however, the man wrestling with a Tyrannosaurus was a modern Hollywood celebrity, not only would he have lived, he would have pocketed something like $20 million for his efforts, and earned the adulation of several billion people.
The global celebration of modern celebrity is partly a product of our pre-historic need for heroes. In a world where philosophers keep telling us that God is dead, the modern Hollywood celebrity also serves as a brittle substitute for both the post-Christian and pre-Christian need for deities. If, as is often claimed, Hollywood operates under the assumption that only eight different stories can be told, then all eight stories can be found in the Greek Myths, with the exception of the Christian ideal that the weak, not the strong, are blessed.
Like the Greek Gods and Heroes, Hollywood celebrities rarely die on screen. They often possess superhuman powers and are gilded with either Herculean invincibility or Venetian beauty. If they do die, it either represents a martyrdom like Christ's death, or is due to an Achilles heel or a dark fate, serving to heighten the tragedy. Finally, the Hollywood celebrity manifests a god-like ubiquity both on and off the screen- they can be in many places at one time - acting on thousands of screens, smiling from thousand of billboards and photographed and interviewed in thousand of magazines in a single day.
The creation, diversification and multiplication of so many different forms of media in the past twenty years has meant that more and more information is needed for dissemination. Information on celebrities is not only very popular with the general public, it also popular with journalists. Interviewing a movie star requires almost no effort. The celebrity's publicist will provide you with every significant and insignificant detail of the celebrity's life. All you have to do is read this information, interview the subject, cut and paste what the celebrity says so the interview has a coherent structure, and `bang,' there is your thousand or two thousand word article.
Because of this modern media frenzy there are as many divisions of Hollywood celebrity as there are bird species in the Amazon. As the dim-witted, obtuse and lethargic stars of Big Brother proved last summer - you don't need any skills to become a celebrity these days, you just need to be in the media. In Hollywood there are A-list commercial celebrities like Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts. There are your B-list celebrities like Ben Affleck, Kevin Kline and Uma Thurman (they might not have to audition for...