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Celebrity Is Overrated

Money makes life go around, and lots of people desire to be famous (hence, the proliferation of Reality TV shows). It seems only a complete imbecile would throw away a shot at money or fame.

So, supposedly, it's refreshing when a character does give up pursuit of fame and riches for (say) family or friends, even if they disagree with their choice to snub. (Even though, in TV, we expect the Reset Button.) Or it's just because fame only brings you even bigger problems, like getting caught in a Never Live It Down.

Named for a line in Rocket Power's "Reggie's Big (Beach) Break"... which isn't quite an example of this trope, even though the button does get pushed.

A variation is when the characters don't necessarily mind being famous so much; it's what they're famous for — i.e. something they're embarrassed or ashamed of — which is the problem.

Can result in Angst Dissonance if not handled carefully; for perhaps unsurprising reasons, people who aren't rich and famous but would very much like to be tend to react poorly to seeing people who are rich and famous spending a lot of time whining about how much it sucks.

Not to be confused with Hype Backlash.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Love Hina, episode title "The Idol Shooting for Tokyo U is a Prep School Student: Sing!" — Naru gains sudden success as a singing idol in the wake of a talent contest but gives it up to return to Hinata House, using the threat of a trivial scandal as an excuse.
    • Lampshade in the X-Mas episode. Naru calls out to Keitaro for help with a reporter who recognized her.
  • In Sailor Moon, Minako actually passes her idol singer audition at one point, but chooses to remain with her friends (and continue fighting the Big Bad) rather than pursue her dream of becoming an idol singer.
  • Najimi from Doujin Work decides to delay being published commercially when she finds out that she will not be allowed to make doujinshi anymore. She'd hate to give up the friendship, competition and the fun of doing what you really love, which is very different from the money-grubbing attitude she had at first.
  • The entire premise of Perfect Blue.
  • Yang Wen-li from Legend of Galactic Heroes refused to capitalise on his new-found fame as "Hero of El Facil"note  and allowed himself to lapse into (relative) obscurity. Eight years later, after he became a national hero again by successfully capturing the strategically vital Iserlohn Fortressnote , he again did nothing about his fame and even contemplated retiring because he hoped capturing the fortress will create favourable conditions to conclude a peace treaty and end the war.
  • In Robotech, Minmei feels this way towards the end of the series. A large part of it has to do with the fact that Earth just barely survived an orbital bombardment by over 4 million alien ships, people are struggling just to survive, and most importantly (to her), she never get to spend time with her Love Interest, Rick Hunter.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Party, this is the ultimate decision made by the French girl seeking to enter Hollywood.
  • In EDtv, a film that deconstructed Reality TV even before there was such a thing, Ed, who becomes the world's first Reality TV star, ends up learning that it's hard to have meaningful relationships when TV cameras are following you around everywhere.
  • Anna Scott from Notting Hill is far too aware of this.
    "One day my looks will go, people will discover I can't act and I'll end as some sad middle-aged woman who used to be famous for a while".
  • In Rock Star, Chris Cole becomes the lead singer of the fictional heavy metal band Steel Dragon. At first it's a dream come true for him, but the Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll lifestyle puts a strain on his relationship with his longtime girlfriend, and eventually they break up. When his band mates refuse to let him participate in the writing process for their new album, Chris finally decides he's had enough of the rock star lifestyle. He quits the band and becomes an independent musician playing at bars and coffee houses in Seattle.

    Literature 
  • The Goosebumps book How I Learned to Fly is based around this, making it seem really out-of-place in a series dedicated to supernatural horrors. This is best seen in the end, when the hero pretends to lose his powers to live a happy life with his Love Interest, while his rival leads a miserable and empty life being famous.
  • The Boy Who Lived doesn't particularly enjoy being famous for killing Voldemort. He doesn't mind being praised for his Quidditch skills, however, but that's slightly different for a couple of reasons: a) He's earning those accolades by his own merits, whereas the thing with the Dark Lord happened when he was eighteen months old and was at least partly sheer dumb luck, b) it resulted in him having an exceedingly shitty childhood on account of his sole remaining blood relative being a raging bitch who took her jealousy issues with Harry's mother out on him, and c) it turns out that Voldemort was Only Mostly Dead, and nursing a grudge. If anyone can claim to have a reason to angst about their fame, Harry can.
  • Audrey, Wait! is pretty much a novel about this trope. Audrey struggles with becoming famous for something she couldn't reasonably be considered responsible for and has to deal with the fallout.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Hangin' with Mr. Cooper: Raven Symone's character proves to be good at chess, but when her mom Geneva finds out that training her for world championships would be a hassle, she decides against letting her train.
  • Played straight throughout the run of Friends where Joey, an aspiring actor, absolutely basks in his celebrity status when he is successful.
  • Extras plays with this; Andy Millman spends the first series yearning to be famous, only to find it's not all he hoped for in the second series and the Christmas special. However, it's more what he's famous for that bothers him (a cheap comedy show riddled with detrimental - in his eyes - Executive Meddling and broad humour he doesn't appreciate) than being famous itself, which is something he continues to yearn for. It's also noted by several people that he's more than a little bit ungrateful and hypocritical about it, in that he clearly views himself as being somehow above or superior to the general public whose acceptance he nevertheless pathetically craves; he'll spend hours whining about having to sell out to be famous and how there are loads of people around who are more famous than him who don't deserve to be and how much of a drag that is, only to turn around and eagerly sell out even more in order to keep up his public profile.
  • Deconstructed by The Colbert Report. Stephen (in character) considers applause to be only slightly more important to his survival than oxygen, but the only reason he loves fame so much is because he's incredibly insecure; if the public don't know who he is, neither does he.
  • Although overall he's quite happy being a wealthy, famous bestselling novelist, the first episode of Castle makes it quite clear that Richard Castle is getting a little bored with the repetitive monotony of fame and the shallow world he's found himself in (except for the bits where he gets to sign the breasts of attractive, flirty women. He doesn't mind those bits much), which is partly why he finds the idea of solving mysteries with down-to-earth cops quite appealing.
  • An episode of Black Books has Bernard and Manny writing the worlds greatest children's book, which initially ends up being a quite good adult book and then rewritten as a somewhat average children's book. They eventually burn it while drunk due to the fact they can't handle the fame it will no doubt bring them. When they sober up, they can't remember what the book was about or why they burned it.
  • In an episode of Alien Nation, a camera crew is following the Human Alien Detective George Francisco and his human partner on a case. The journalists portray George as a super-detective, mostly to improve relations between Newcomers and humans, while completely ignoring his partner. While George is initially flattered by all the fame, he eventually ditches the camera crew to go solve the crime with his partner, after getting tired of the pressure.
  • Explored in CSI: Miami's episode "Cyber-lebrity" in which an average swimmer ended up becoming a web celebrity as a result of a photo of her and now she had all these cyber stalkers who updates her location wherever she is. She ended up getting threatened for her life as a result of all this. She was thankful when people stopped stalking her.
  • When Weinerville got a magic lamp, Dottie wished to be the most famous person in the world. Never even learned what she was famous for.
  • Red Green talked about this, saying fame is not something to strive for, as there are a lot of people who become truly infamous; he suggests going for the money.
  • On the Baywatch episode "Talk Show," Mitch helps to rescue Jay Leno, and becomes a celebrity as a result. He hates it.

    Music 
  • Lily Allen's "The Fear" is about a girl who desperately craves fame and the materialistic lifestyle it results in, only to feel ambivalent and empty when she actually achieves it.
  • Nirvana's "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" from In Utero spells out Kurt Cobain's dismissive attitude to his fame (see below) with lines like "Love you for what I am not, did not want what I have got."
  • As the page quote demonstrates, Five Iron Frenzy had a couple songs about this; further, Reese Roper, the band's singer and frontman, refused to indulge in some of the more egocentric trappings of celebrity, like signing autographs (this was also because he was the only one that all the fans could even name, let alone recognize, and he felt signing autographs himself took away attention from his equally talented bandmates).
  • "I used to want this thing forever, y'all can have it back."
  • "Limelight" by Rush touches on this theme, with lyrics about a "gilded cage" and such.
  • "Napoleon" by Ani DiFranco has the singer reconnecting with an old friend who wins fame and fortune and then promptly cuts ties with the old crowd in favor of their "new friends".
    "They told you your music, could reach millions. That the choice was up to you.
    You told me they always pay for lunch, and "They believe in what I do".
    And I wonder, if you'll miss your old friends, once you've proven what you're worth.
    Yeah I wonder, when you're a big star, will you miss the Earth?"
  • "Under and Over it" By Five Finger Death Punch has shades of this with lyrics like
    You can be me and I will be you.
    You can live just like a star.
    I'll take my sanity, you take the fame.
    • The entire song is done from the perspective of someone who is fed-up with the rumors commonly associated with fame, such as selling out.
  • "Celebrity" by the Barenaked Ladies uses this trope to demonstrate the old adage, "The grass is always greener on the other side." When you're nobody, you want to be famous. When you're famous, you want to be nobody.
  • Pink Floyd had entire albums dedicated to this trope: Wish You Were Here and The Wall.
  • Radiohead's "Life In a Glass House" is (elliptically) about how horrible Thom Yorke found people being interested in him to be. You could probably already have guessed from the steep drop in musical accessibility and lyrical openness between all the songs on "OK Computer" and "Kid A".
  • This is the point of the David Bowie song "Fame": "What you like is in the limo/What you get is no tomorrow".
  • Taylor Swift's "The Lucky One" does this:
    It was a few years later, I showed up here
    And they still tell the legend of how you disappeared
    How you took the money and your dignity and got the hell out
    They say you bought a bunch of land somewhere
    Chose the rose garden over Madison Square
    And it took some time but I understand it now
    Cause now my name is up in lights
    But I think you got it right
  • Super Trouper by ABBA.
  • "Gone Guru" by Lifeseeker. A famous rock star gives up his hedonistic lifestyle to become a hermit living in nature as a result of this trope. Ironically, his new lifestyle choice causes him to end up becoming even more rich and famous as a self-help guru (and/or possible cult leader), and he falls back into his former party animal lifestyle, even going as far as spending his entire fortune in his old age to get his head cut off and put on a robot body so he can keep partying for eternity.
    Website 
  • From Cracked's "5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won't)":
    Experts say where you find kids who desperately want to be famous, you find a history of neglect at home. Parents were either absent completely or, at best, emotionally distant dicks. It turns out the whole surge in aspirations for fame came right along with the explosion of single parents and "broken" homes. Only half of today's children live with their original two parents.
    You can see how this sad mechanism works in the attention-starved mind. The kid is programmed by biology to love a parent, but the parent doesn't return the love. Fame lets them turn the tables on that arrangement. When you're famous, millions love you, but you don't even know their names. It's purely one-sided. They wait for hours in the cold for your autograph, you barely glance at them on the way to your limo. You get to take their love and wipe your ass with it, the same as your parents did to you.

    Western Animation 
  • Hey Arnold!
    • "Mr. Hyunh Goes Country": Hyunh becomes a famous country singer, but he announces at his Great Ol' Opry performance that his true dream is to be a chef, and absolutely precludes further performances.
    • "Stinky Goes Hollywood": Stinky has been selected to do a commercial campaign for Yahoo Soda. After filming several ads, Stinky's family and friends want him to sign a $1m commercial contract, but Stinky has found out that why he was picked (having overheard an executive mocking his name), and, presumably fearing that the commercials will be mocking his hayseed image (and other personal inferiorities), decides that his pride is more important… and ends up being mocked as an idiot by Helga for not signing.
    • "It Girl": Helga is against modeling for Johnny Stitches (guest star Michael Mc Kean) from the start, only doing it for the money and the free stuff. Seeing everyone wearing her dress (even some boys are wearing it) pushes her over edge, making her shove a model during another one of Stitches' shows, and then spitting in front of the press... and acting nice at Fashion Week. The last one is effective, since Helga's nastiness is much of her image.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, "Sweet Stench of Success": Bloo gains fame as spokesperson for Deo deodorant, but when he notices that his producer is overworking him (and won't let him have time with his pals, natch), Bloo goes on a live variety show and chews out the producer real hard, opening with a suspiciously apropos song.
  • The Simpsons did this multiple times.
    • Probably the most notable time was in "Bart Gets Famous", when Bart became the 'I-Didn't-Do-It Boy'. Bart at first loves the fame and attention it gets him, but eventually gets sick of the fact that he's treated as a one-trick pony. He goes on a talk show, having actually researched current events so he could have something to talk about, but the host only wants him to say the line and nothing else. Marge tells him that even if he hates it, he at least has the ability to make people happy which makes his fame worthwhile. Bart is encouraged by this, but ironically, his fame dies out when the people lose interest in the fad.
    • Parodied towards the end of "Homerpalooza", when Homer becomes famous as a carnival freak who withstands cannonballs to his stomach, but is urged to stop by a veternarian because it's damaging his body. During his final show, Homer dodges the cannonball, losing his fans.
      Homer: I'll miss you, Pumpkins, but I just can't share your bleak world view. I've got too much to live for.
      (Beat)
      Smashing Pumpkins: Woo-hoo!
      James Iha: Let's all go out and buy fur coats!
      Jimmy Chamberlin: I want a walk-in humidor.
  • Kim Possible never hunts for celebrity, ever. Even when she's at the X-Games competition and have enough MAD SKILLZ to own the entire competition, she just hunts for the villain. Compare this with Ron Stoppable who spent the entire episode becoming a famous jock just so he could get any ladies. She's impressed when a film producer plans to make a movie about her, but it doesn't seem to have occurred to her that her adventures would make good entertainment. Though despite all her Saving the World experience, Kim doesn't mind being featured on the cover of a random teen magazine for her cheerleading moves…
  • By the second half of Danny Phantom, Danny himself is a known celebrity across America. One episode proved Danny takes this trope to heart when he couldn't stand the constant fans chasing/berating him. He muses that he prefers the privacy and peacefulness as Danny Fenton whenever he doesn't have to don his alter ego. A huge upgrade from the boy who wanted popularity so badly in his earlier heydays.
  • An episode of The Fairly OddParents had Timmy finding out he was the subject of a reality show in Fairy World. Now that he was a star, his life became the result of Executive Meddling by the show's producer, Simon, causing him to lose his mother, his friends, and nearly his godparents.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "The Two Faces Of Squidward" the titular cephalopod first enjoys the attentions of everyone anxious to gaze at his new David-esque looks, but soon their excess devotion has him begging for his old face back.
  • Pepper Ann is not so sure about her mother doing a comedy act, but by story's end, she's warmed up to her act enough to be surprised to hear that mom's not pursuing a career in comedy.
  • An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes has Jimmy becoming famous by coining a new Catch Phrase, with Beezy becoming his manager and Heloise his bodyguard. He likes it at first, but quickly realizes he's mobbed whenever he goes outside, and he can't even go to the bathroom without attracting attention to himself.
  • Total Drama Island plays with this trope in the TDA special, while the rest of the contestants are desperate to regain their fame after the show ends, Noah and Eva don't seem to care.
    • Ironically, Noah's lack of fame-seeking results in gossip networks trying to find out more about him, and Eva's hostility towards the paparazzi results in a "Biggest-Eva-Freakout" competition among fansites.
  • Parodied in the South Park episode "Something You Can Do With Your Finger"; after the boys form a boy band and perform one 'concert' in the mall which is mildly well received, this trope kicks in after one little girl asks for an autograph and a security guard complements them.
  • Happens to Fluttershy in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Green Isn't Your Color", when she briefly becomes a famous fashion model. The Shrinking Violet quickly grows to hate the spotlight, but keeps it up because Rarity is being so supportive. (Rarity, meanwhile, is being so supportive because she's fighting back envy and feels ashamed about it.)
  • Parodied in Garfield Goes Hollywood by Garfield himself. As Jon trots out the usual justifications for this trope, such as forgetting who they are and about the little people, Garfield welcomes all that in his usual snarky manner. It's still played straight with Jon though, as really, he's afraid that his pets will forget about him.
  • Cherry Jam's reason for moving to Berry Bitty City in Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures.

    Real Life 
  • Many celebrities state that this is Truth in Television and is often the cause of, or a major contributing factor in, a lot of the self-destructive behavior some exhibit.
  • Kurt Cobain probably wanted to be famous in the same way that most previous alternative rockers had been "famous" ie; well known in the music scene but not in any way mainstream. His band's huge success, way above what any other similar bands had reached, caused a lot of stress in his life, and it's believed to be a big part of why he killed himself. Although the fact he repeatedly went on MTV to decry the mainstream undercut his point slightly.
  • Cat Stevens turned away from performing at the height of his career, left it behind, and embraced Islam. He later came back for a time under a new name, Yusuf Islam.
  • George Washington is an interesting example of this trope. As a young man he hungered for military glory but eventually matured and settled for life as a gentleman planter. Then of course he got involved in politics, emerged from the Revolution and found it almost more than he could handle.
  • Dave Chappelle famously walked away from Chappelle's Show on Comedy Central at the height of its popularity after becoming displeased with the working environment and some of the fans. After a sabbatical in South Africa he returned to stand-up comedy but seems to have retired from anything high profile for good, and has publicly commented on his happiness living with his family on his farm in Ohio.
  • J. D. Salinger rued his fame brought by The Catcher in the Rye. He famously hermitted himself away and refused to even be interviewed for the last thirty years of his life.
  • Alan Alda said, "It isn't necessary to be rich and famous to be happy. It's only necessary to be rich."
  • Elton John is an interesting case. As reflected in an example above, he was an emotionally suppressed boy with an emotionally distant, strict father and a doting mother. The two parents divorced, but the effects of such a childhood scarred him for life. He was encouraged to only wear conservative clothing and be a banker, and was discouraged from pursuing a career in rock and roll. Elton was shy, overweight, gap-toothed, played the relatively unhip instrument of piano, wore glasses (he didn't need them at first, but he idolized Buddy Holly and wanted to wear glasses like Buddy, to the point that it damaged his vision) and was struggling with his homosexuality. Because of this, when he took on the "Elton" persona, he wore increasingly flamboyant clothing and glasses and acted outrageously, partly as a riposte to what his dad wanted him to be, and to hide his insecurities. He took cocaine, marijuana and alcohol to feel a part of the scene and open up, and because it felt good to him at first; they also served as an aphrodisiac. Later, the drugs, alcohol, depression, promiscuity and bulimia caught up with him and nearly killed him. He enjoyed the celebrity, but could not cope with life away from celebrity, and often his being busy with albums and touring would, by Word of God, keep him from overdosing in his room alone and dying young. He cleaned up by the end of The Eighties and got his life back on track. He still, however, is very self-conscious about his looks and claims he hates having his picture taken and hates to make music videos, which might explain why by the beginning of The Oughties, he stopped appearing in them (or appears in a limited amount).
  • T. E. Lawrence spent several years between the wars trying to disappear.
  • In one interview, David Duchovny and the host were discussing that actors would very much like to be athletes or rock stars, musicians would love to be athletes or actors and sportsmen would prefer to be actors or musicians. In another, he mentioned that though he enjoyed acting, it made him feel that it was not anything substantial like, say, scientists' contributions were.
  • Jake Lloyd, known as Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, retired from acting in 2002, saying that he suffered constant bullying from his classmates.
  • Lauryn Hill, after the smash success of her 1998 solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (which to this day is put on many "Best Albums of the 20th Century"-type lists), walked away from the public eye. She claims that it is because she felt like she was unfairly being controlled by her record label and that she could not be herself as a celebrity. It didn't help that her actions afterwards became increasingly odd, such as denouncing the Catholic church's history of child abuse at a Vatican benefit concert.
  • Paul Scofield generally refused press interviews and rarely made public appearances off-stage (though he enjoyed meeting individual fans). When he received an Oscar for A Man For All Seasons Scofield refused to accept it in-person. Nor did it change Scofield's attitude, as he turned down many of the resulting film offers he felt were too high profile.
  • Stephen King has stated that he hates being famous due to his nervousness with crowds and genuine lack of understanding why people care about what he views as an uninteresting life. He even refuses to sign autographs (Though he does participate in book signings). Given that he has often had people camping outside of his house and once had a mentally unstable woman break into his home and threaten his wife, one can understand his unhappiness.
  • Mara Wilson was a burgeoning child talent in The Nineties in movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street and the title role in Matilda, but during the making of Matilda her mother tragically died of breast cancer. Having already decided she didn't want to do act for a living, her career slowed down with critical and commercial flops like A Simple Wish and Thomas And The Magic Railroad. She was typecast in "cutesy" roles while hoping for more substantial opportunities, she felt awkward as she grew up, and, as she later mentioned, she came to the conclusion that "film acting (wasn't) very fun". She left show business after Thomas, went to a number of colleges in her new hometown of New York City, and now works as a playwright, runs a popular blog online and volunteers for Publicolor, a not-for-profit organization that creates imaginative and colorful paint jobs for inner-city schools.
  • Howard Hughes, famous aviator, business man and film director in the 1930s and 1940s became a total recluse for the next three decades of his life. In part, this was also a result of his mental problems and OCD.


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