There is a much-quoted comment attributed to American artist Andy Warhol to the effect that in the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes.
Warhol is believed to have made this statement in an exhibition catalogue in 1968. Since then though his words have proved prophetic, encapsulating a whole culture of people simply wanting to be famous for fame’s sake.
There has always been a celebrity class, usually made up of singers, actors, sportspeople and an occasional politician. What has defined their celebrity status has been some sort of talent.
So Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones and Elton John are or were all talented performers, with huge worldwide acclaim. Similarly, actors, particularly film actors, like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Laurence Olivier, Elizabeth Taylor or sports stars like Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Lionel Messi and Maradona excel at what they do. Ironically, many of the true celebrities often want to shun fame, do not want cameras and reporters intervening in their every waking moment.
However, over recent years people have come into the celebrity genre based on what they don’t do. They have no talent but simply appear in strange constructs to be observed by a curious populace. This began with the reality shows like Big Brother, The Apprentice, the Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea.
For the most part, all the people taking part in these programmes have to offer is themselves and maybe being prepared to behave in ways that will interest the onlooking audience.
The whole thing is odd. Now though, due to the explosion of the celebrity culture, the demand for celebrity means these oddities are spreading out across the media.
So, someone from the Apprentice will appear on BBC’s Question Time or Newsnight talking about Brexit. Others will land columns in papers, in Katie Hopkins (a former Apprentice contestant) usually to spout right-wing bile.
Programmes like Strictly Come Dancing have run out of what you might call bona fide celebrities, so now they too go looking for the manufactured versions.
So those taking part in the likes of Made in Chelsea and The Only Way is Essex can go straight onto the dance floor of Strictly Come Dancing. Or they may feature on programmes like Who Do You Think You Are – quite an apposite question, in some circumstances.
So really, the celebrity culture highlighted all those years ago by Warhol has exploded via the reality TV genre to make celebrity an objective in itself – no talent required, please apply.
Funny looking back, I bet Warhol would never have dreamt that the 15 minutes of fame world would lead to the likes of Towie and Made in Chelsea. But then 1984 author George Orwell would never have guessed his totalitarian concept of Big Brother would end up as the template for a reality TV show.