Thursday 5 January 2017

The Bills Of Mortality

There is a lot said and discussed about what we call the "celebrity culture", that is the amount of time, effort and interest taken in certain persons whose lives, interests and thoughts become public knowledge. Many are under the impression that this is modern and was little or unknown in the past.

But in the times of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, their sports persons and others in the arenas and theatres enjoyed wide fame and for some fortunes. Gladiators, on the other hand, tended to have a low survival rate, and charioteers were only as good as their horses.

The Dark Ages, being low on communications and media sources leave us short of celeb's. The monks and others scribbling away about saints, god and kings did not have a wide circulation. The people in the villages doubtless talked more about some than others but it was largely local matters.

Come the Middle Ages and all that trade, the urban centres and a basic network for information, namely The Church, as well as other long distance travel and you have a new celeb' culture built around saints, prelates, Emperors, Kings and magnates and those connected. Sadly, where some fell out of favour or were alleged to be wrong they might suffer gruesome deaths and instant final fame.

This went on until quite recently. Matthew Hopkin, the 17th Century Witch Finder General had a large following and like many celeb's before and since retained his fame by dying early when there were still many to mourn rather than revile him.

He had the advantage that the age of print had arrived. So, secret trials, or inquisitions or Star Chambers etc. were opened up. The press and print could give wide circulation in a short time across the nation and beyond. The Thomason Papers at the British Library is a fascinating collection.

Moving on to our present era and the couple of centuries past we can see even a couple of hundred years ago as well as aristocrats and those in high religious office etc. there were strong followings for sportsmen, entertainers, writers and some who achieved a temporary fame for some reason or other. See Wikipedia on Bare-knuckle boxing.

Since the late 19th Century we have attempted to educate the masses, despite the reluctance of many of the elite to allow this and many of the masses who could think of better places to spend your days of youth than schools. This gave us the mass media, such as the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror and a deluge of print on many matters and a good deal of it about people and their doings or not doings.

Slowly but surely, just as some creatures devour their young this media began to turn over and decide who was in, out, of interest, out of interest, with us or forgotten. The coming of television with the need for new programmes, new interests and new people has hugely accelerated this.

This has occurred in the last fifty years or so. A consequence is that when you get to 2016 the increase in the supply of celeb's over this period now becomes an increase in the number of mortalities of persons who managed to be a celebrity at some time or other and a great many in entertainment and sport. The coming of the web has added to this and allowed some instant celeb's usually soon forgotten.

What we have had is major corporations in the media, film, TV and especially pop music where financial success critically depends on new stuff, new people and new slants on what is produced. So if you want to understand why we mourn more celeb's the answer is an old one known the ancient world and times since.

Follow the money.

1 comment:

  1. These days celebrities pop off too frequently to be worth mourning. If you miss one, another is bound to come along soon enough. Should one be the mourning type that is.