‘Sunset Boulevard’ is a 1950s American drama named after the boulevard that runs through Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. The plot line stars an unsuccessful screenwriter and a movie star named Norma Desmond who has fallen out of the spotlight after a wildly successful career. The entire time I was watching I could not shake the feeling that I was a prisoner. Norma Desmond is a prisoner of her own fantasy, the fantasy of being a star. As the movie progresses more and more of the characters become prisoners of her fantasy; Max, Joseph Gillis, and in the concluding scene the police, reporters, and friends.
While the movie ‘Sunset Boulevard’ takes place in the 50s, it recognizes the existence of an obsession that still plagues us today; fame. Paramount Pictures is depicted with wide swinging gates that (to me) almost seem like the gates of heaven itself. For Norma it was not a question of life or death. It was a question of Fame or death. If she was not in the spotlight, she did not want to live.
Now I would not say that we are ALL this obsessed with fame. Norma is definitely an exaggeration, but I believe we are all obsessed to a certain degree with the idea of celebrity. TV stars, Movie stars, Rock-stars, Athletic Superstars, and (to quote BJ Novak in his recent comedy show at Bucknell) even porn stars. television programming is ramped with shows like MTV’s MADE and Make Over BLAH BLAH BLAH Addition where the ordinary person is turned into the extraordinary. “We are going to make you a star.” Why are we obsessed with being stars? Has fame really become the new American dream? Americans used to imagine a life with a quaint house, their own yard, and a family who went to get ice cream in the evenings together. Now we want money, fame, success, and a 12 bedroom mansion with pool, theater, 5 car garage, and a cook. What happened to us?
In ‘Sunset Boulevard’ Norma seems to believe fame = happiness. Now I think our society would agree money = happiness.
So is this perhaps why we are obsessed with celebrity? Because we are obsessed with being wealthy? I think so. We are certainly not obsessed with celebrities because they are happiest, I don’t think anyone can argue that famous people are happy people. So why are we so obsessed with them? I’m interested to hear your responses!