The Celebrification of the Planet

As you get older, you start to observe meta-trends that extend over your entire lifetime. One such trend is how celebrities–in particular, actors, singers and the talentless, pitiful super-wealthy–have spread their influence over a larger and larger part of our culture. There have always been celebrity endorsements. But then came the celebrity activist and, more recently, performers replacing models in ads in magazines. We’ve also got celebrities as brand, where a startling variety of the famous and the semi-famous are producing and selling a startling array of products.

Many of our house guests left books behind. Two of these are Eat, Pray, Love (a book that apparently every woman in Western civilization is reading) and Emily’s Reasons Why Not. I was recently pawing through our bookshelf, and noticed that both of these books had received endorsements from unlikely literary critics.

The scholarly Britney Spears is quoted on the back of Eat, Pray, Love as saying “A good read. I can’t get away from it.”. Brittany Murphy gives us a reason to read Emily’s Reasons Why Not, saying she’d like to see “Emily Sanders [the book’s heroine], Bridget Jones and Carrie Bradshaw meet for lunch.” Or rather, somebody’s publicist wrote that quote for Brittany, and she signed off on it.

I do my best to ignore celebrity culture in general, and in particular the current generation of drug-addled starlets eager to crash their cars for and expose their genitals to a fervent public. When’s it going to stop? Never. It’s just a sign of the times that the average actor or singer thinks they’re a book critic. It’s a shame that the publishing industry fosters such behaviour, and a great shame that the public cares about what a drug-addicted pop star thinks of a novel.

UPDATE: I’m aware of the potential irony of this entry following one in praise of a musician turned NPR blogger. However, I don’t think Ms. Brownstein got the blogging gig because of her fame (Sleater-Kinney isn’t exactly a household name). She got it because she’s a decent writer and knows a lot about music.


  1. Is that an American or British version of “Eat, Pray, Love”?

    My book, purchased in Canada, does not have the Spears quote on it.

    (I loved that book by the way and don’t mind the hype about it because it really deserves it.)

  2. Around here in Seattle, Sleater-Kinney is more well known as a freeway exit.

    I’ve passed it hundreds of times on the trip to Portland, and used to be quite confused why all those young folks had t-shirts celebrating it.

  3. Well there is at least one women in Western civilization that is not read E,P,L – I’ve been reading Infinite Jest for the past 227 months and will be reading it and only it for the forseeable future.

    I noticed someone reading E,P,L on the bus the other day and wondered what it was about. Hearing the Spears endorses, however, means that I think I’ll take a pass on it!

  4. Alexis: It’s the British edition. Which also explains why Esther Freud is quoted on the front. I had to go look up who she was. Turns out she wrote Hideous Kinky and a half-dozen other books. Plus she’s Sigmund’s great-granddaughter.

  5. I’ve actually read Hideous Kinky. I liked the movie version better, but that might be because it stars hot, hot Kate Winslet.

    Eat, Pray, Love is very, very good.

    (My copy doesn’t have any celebrity endorsements. It has 2 pages from various magazines, newspapers etc.)

    Best endorsement I ever saw- “If I’d turned the pages of this book faster, it would have been like I was watching a movie.”

    (That doesn’t give much faith to the quality of the book now, does it?)

    Another thing you might not know- Most people get their friends to blurb them. When I wrote my book, I sent it to poet friends to blurb. It’s very common for friends to write these things for each other in Canada.

  6. You do marketing of a sort, Darren. So let’s say you write a book, do you or don’t you want an endorsement by Ms Spears. How about Bono, still no? Bjork then, or maybe Natalie Merchant?

    Same as it ever was.

  7. Andy: It’s a question of integrity, isn’t it? Frankly, if I wrote a book, it wouldn’t be the sort of book that would sell copies because it received an endorsement from Britney Spears.

    If I wrote a book about charity, debt in the developing world or AIDS, then plausibly I could solicit a quote from Bono.

    So my answer is mostly ‘no’, unless it was appropriate.

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