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Celebrity Is Overrated

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"I wanted to be famous, now I want to take it back."
Five Iron Frenzy, "Superpowers"

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 the 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 spend a lot of time whining about how much it sucks. That said, it can also be Truth in Television, as living a life that is near-constantly in the public gaze, surrounded by people who constantly want something from you and having your every decision and action, creative or otherwise, evaluated and judged by people who don't know you but are often rather pettily envious of you brings with it its own problems.


Not to be confused with Hype Backlash. Can lead to a Reclusive Artist. Compare Gracefully Demoted and Ambition Is Evil.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • An episode of Doraemon is focused on this. To elaborate: When Doraemon and Nobita discover an Idol Singer napping in secret while she's hiding, they, after waking her up and agreeing to her request to keep her location a secret, invite her to their house so she can rest more comfortably. When she expresses her wish for someone else to trade places with her due to her sheer workload, Nobita, with the help of a gadget from Doraemon, swap bodies with her. Soon after receiving the loving attention he craves, however, he's joined by the Idol Singer's Stage Mom, who puts such an intense amount of work on "her" that he quickly wishes to be turned back to normal. note 
  • 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.
  • Yang Wen-li from Legend of Galactic Heroes refused to capitalize 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 that capturing the fortress will create favorable conditions to conclude a peace treaty and end the war.
  • 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. Lampshaded in the X-Mas episode. Naru calls out to Keitaro for help with a reporter who recognized her.
  • In Robotech, Minmei feels this way towards the end of the Macross Saga (aka Super Dimension Fortress Macross). 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 gets to spend time with her Love Interest, Rick Hunter/Hikaru Ichijo.
  • 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.
  • The entire premise of Perfect Blue.

    Comic Books 
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Mary Jane, after hearing that he's Spider-Man, points that Peter is now like a rockstar. And yes, he is... except for the money, fame, and everything good that would come from such a thing.

    Comic Strips 
  • Mandrake the Magician: Mandrake's sidekick Lothar becomes a champion wrestler in one story, surrounded with riches and glory. When he realizes that this means he cannot go on adventures with Mandrake and friends any longer, he decides to abandon it all and rejoin his old friend.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Penny and Bolt chafe under their former TV celebrity status at times, most obviously in "The Walk," where the girl discusses the issue in detail.
    Penny: Believe me, being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You're always needed somewhere. People get jealous of you, even folks who don’t know anything about you. It gets real hard to tell if someone actually likes you or is just using you. Makes it tough to have friends — real friends, I mean. You haven’t got any privacy, either. Everyone gawks at you — and the nicest ones simply leave it at that. Others come up and pester you about all kinds of dumb stuff. If you're lucky, they just ask for an autograph, say how much they liked your show, and shake your hand. Like I'm telling you anything you don't already know, huh buddy? Could you believe that one weirdo we ran into at the mall last week? She insisted on getting a souvenir swatch of hair from your tail! You were awfully cooperative with that loony tune, big guy.
  • As per canon, Harry in Child of the Storm hates being bowed to and worshipped. It gets even worse when The Reveal comes that he's the son of Thor and therefore in line for the throne of Asgard. Eventually, he becomes more assertive and less uncomfortable with it (or at least, willing to put up with it), though he still remains a Humble Hero and Nice to the Waiter (in between the PTSD, anyway) who would rather people not make a big fuss over him.
    • Fred and George Weasley, naturally, play it for laughs by bowing, scraping, and loudly asking "What is thy bidding, my master?"
  • In Codex Equus, this happened to Blue Suede Heartstrings, the Alicorn god of Music and Humility, in his mortal life. He would experience this as a mortal in some point of his life. Losing both of his parents (first his mother, then his father), witnessing the hubris and corruption within the music/movie industries, and having his music be "cheapened" for money left him rather depressed to the point where he developed self-destructive habits, such as stress-eating. By the time he recorded the song "(You're the) Devil in Disguise", he had hit an all-time low and planned to disappear from the limelight forever, when he met an incognito Luminiferous. The pep-talk he received from Luminiferous motivated him to take up globe-trotting and performing on his own terms after he quit his job as a career musician, leading to him eventually becoming an Alicorn god through his good deeds.
  • The Many Dates of Danny Fenton: Danny Fenton becomes annoyed with his new popularity. He does like that his peers respect him and take his side over Dash and the A-Listers; however, he dislikes that people he does not know are asking for his advice on dating, the number of his previous dates, and act like they're his friends. Danny would much rather hang out with his real friends and girlfriend and deal with the situation with Vlad.
  • People Like Us: At the end of the story, Arthur talks to Murray Franklin on the phone about coming on his show. He's tempted to finally get some of the recognition he wanted, but then he realizes that Murray is probably going to bully him on the show; besides, he doesn't want to rope Travis into it.
  • In Danny Phantom fanfic Resurrected Memories: Danny Fenton has come to believe this as due to his worldwide fame from having saved the world and revealing his secret identity as after several months of being subjected to having to deal with the Paparazzi and people obsessing over him, he ends up greatly missing his privacy.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Air I Breathe: Trista is a newly popular singer, but falls in the clutches of a gangster when her manager gives away her contract to pay off a gambling debt. She starts Drowning Her Sorrows before she is mobbed by a group of fans and paparazzi.
  • Country Strong revolves around the country music industry. The protagonist is an alcoholic diva who has constant mental health problems because of the pressures of fame, as well as her collapsing marriage to her manager. The film has her marking a comeback tour but she then suicides at the end. There's also conflict between two supporting characters - a beauty queen launching a mainstream career, and a country singer content to just play at small bars without fame. Three guesses which one we're meant to side with.
  • 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.
  • I Shot Jesse James: Robert Ford finds this out after he kills Jesse James, as he's known only as "the man who killed Jesse James" and can't escape the reputation. It also doesn't help that the action brands him a coward by the public, as well as leading to gunslingers taking shots at him in the street.
  • Subverted in My Week with Marilyn, a dramatization of Marilyn Monroe starring in The Prince and the Showgirl. The protagonist - a young assistant director - wants to save Marilyn from her crazy Hollywood life. But she admits that, despite it driving her crazy, she does love the limelight.
  • In The Party, this is the ultimate decision made by the French girl seeking to enter Hollywood.
  • 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 bandmates 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.

  • 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.
  • In direct contrast to the damned sodomites of The Divine Comedy, a proud soul in Purgatory, Oderisi da Gubbio, rants that worldly fame changes with the breeze and that every person who has had fame has lost it and every person who gets it must lose it to another. Dante, who aspires to artistic greatness, is greatly affected by this advise and spends the rest of Purgatory identifying himself with the sin of Pride.
  • Knut Hamsun, as portrayed in the novel Gog, believes so, as people constantly pester him for money, critiques, good words or even things that he cannot provide. That is why he became a recluse.
  • Good in Bed has Cannie Shapiro getting tastes of the Hollywood life after her screenplay is approved by a major studio. But, gradually, she really starts to become homesick for her (comparatively) simpler life in Philadelphia. (It also doesn't help that, as a pregnant woman, she feels self-conscious about sticking out among the thin, fit celebrities like her friend, Maxi Ryder.)
  • 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.
  • Harry Potter 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 relatives being horrible people who hated him for inconveniencing them, 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.
  • Valley of the Dolls centers around the seediness of celebrity and centers around three young starlets who either succumb to the pressures, end up in the loony bin, or give up celebrity life altogether.
  • In the kids' book, Thelma the Unicorn, a horse named Thelma dreams of being a unicorn, and after attaching a carrot on her head, and a truck full of glitter accidentally spill some on her, some passerbys assume she's a unicorn, and relishes in the fame she immediately gains. However she discovers that celebrity has it's downsides as she's hounded by paparazzi and obsessed fans everywhere she goes, and also has to worry about people who start and spread smear campaigns against her just for the hell of it. Eventually she washes off the glitter, and decides to go back to her far and be a regular horse.

    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 humor 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, since he clearly looks down on the general public whose acceptance he nevertheless pathetically craves, he'll spend hours whining about having to sell out to be famous only to turn around and eagerly sell out even more in order to keep up his public profile, and he's constantly looking down on other celebrities and sneering at them for being more famous for less reason when really, he's just jealous.
  • 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 that he's incredibly insecure; if the public doesn'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 cyberstalkers 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.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch did this twice:
    • Season 2's "The Band Episode". Sabrina and her friends take 'Bottled Talent' to beat Alpha Bitch Libby in a school talent show, after which they land a TV performance. A side effect of the potion leads to their egos being inflated and their friendship dissolving. Sabrina learns that if they let the potion go flat and drink it again, it'll remove the talent (and therefore the egos). When the producer starts talking about the benefits that could come with stardom, Sabrina seems to change her mind...just as Harvey and Valerie drink the flat potion.
    • Season 7's "Ping Ping A Song" uses a similar set-up - this time Sabrina and friends are entering a TV talent show that the press are barred from (Sabrina is now an undercover journalist). She gives them Talent Lozenges to improve their nerves - which turns them into egotistical divas. Sabrina this time saves their friendship by admitting she's a journalist, therefore disqualifying them from the contest. Interestingly enough, this episode used obvious Non Singing Voices, while "The Band Episode" had Melissa Joan Hart actually singing.

  • Metallica's song "Moth Into Flame" says that fame is fleeting, and that music stars will quickly get replaced. The lyrics were inspired by Amy Winehouse, a good case of a famous artist going on a self-destructive path.
    Sold your soul, built a higher wall
    Yesterday, now you’re thrown away
    Same rise and fall! Who cares at all?
    Seduced by fame, a moth into the flame
  • John Lennon's song "Watching the Wheels" is his apologia for dropping out of the rock star biz. "No longer riding on the merry-go-round, I just had to let it go."
  • 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 of 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).
  • Kanye West: "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 (fame brings pressure from the industry higher-ups and makes you yearn for old friends) and The Wall (fame isolates akin to a wall between artist and audience, and terrible breakdowns might ensue).
  • Can You Rock It Like This? from Run–D.M.C.'s album King of Rock describes the fantastic life the band has, but also talks about the lows.
  • 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. The singer is a rich and successful pop star who is nevertheless Alone in a Crowd and tries to draw strength from the fact that the man she loves is in the audience of her latest gig.
  • "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.
  • Reel Big Fish: The entirety of "Don't Start A Band", but verse 2 in particular.
  • b.O.b.'s "Airplanes" is about a rap artist tired of all the posturing and politics, who wishes he could go back to the simple days where it was just about the music.
  • Marilyn Manson has never been a big fan of his fame, especially thanks to the numerous death threats, bomb threats, arrests, misblaming and other problems it's brought him. Two albums of the Triptych, Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood (In The Shadow of The Valley of Death) are dedicated to this, and it's come up again and again in songs from other albums and interviews, as well as his Celebritarian Art Movement, a movement based around mocking the religion society has made out of celebrities. Ironically, he started out wanting to be a rock star, only to get there and hate it.
  • "Turn the Page" by Bob Seger is a slightly bitter lament about a musician's life on the road. The cover version by Metallica sounds like said musician is one bad gig away from turning a shotgun on somebody.
  • Nickelback: "Rock Star" zig-zags the trope, singing about how everyone wants to be a rock star but then focusing on the nastier parts of the Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll lifestyle.
  • The Weeknd's "Starboy" presents this in a deconstruction of the Boastful Rap. On its surface, Abel points out the fancy houses, cars, and women that fame has brought him, but the song's somber tone and lyrics imply that in spite of it all, he feels empty and lonely because of his newfound fame. Additionally, the music video portrays his "new" Starboy self is killing his "old" Beauty Behind the Madness self who brought him fame in the first place.
  • Poison's "Fallen Angel" tells the story of a small-town girl who moves to Hollywood to become an actress, only to find that the high life isn't all it's cracked up to be.
    Just like a lost soul
    caught up in the Hollywood scene
    All the parties and limousines
    Such a good actress hiding all her pain
    Trading her memories for fortune and fame
    Just a step away from the edge of a fall
    Caught between heaven and hell
    Where's the girl I knew a year ago
  • "Deep Inside" by Mary J. Blige explores this trope, namely the stress of living a life in the limelight and knowing people might only be dating or befriending her for her money.
  • Eminem: The songs "The Way I Am" and "Don't Approach Me" (with Xzibit) are about the downsides to newfound wealth and fame. In fact, "Don't Approach Me" was less a song and basically the two artists ranting about their frustrations: stalkers, babymamadrama, greedy friends, etc.
  • "Lonely" by Justin Bieber is a short, somber song about how Bieber became very famous while he was still a teenager. Jacob Tremblay plays a teenaged Bieber in the music video.
  • "Tom Cruise Crazy" by Jonathan Coulton is about the titular actor, reflecting on how his rocky marriage with Katie Holmes was entirely in the public eye, his roles are going to start drying up as he ages, and even though literally everyone on the planet knows who he is, almost nobody actually knows him. The second line of the chorus sums it up: "Just be glad it's him, not you."

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • 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 
  • A common theme in 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, stating that his debut there is also his finale.
      • The song that made him famous, "The Simple Things", counts as one too, as it extols the simple pleasures of life over the glitz and glamor of stardon.
        I've got the summer breeze, got 16 cans of peas / A two-speed window fan when it's 93 degrees. / So forgive me for not grabbin' your brass ring; It's crystal clear - I'll stay right here and keep the simple things.
    • "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 McKean) 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 the 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.
  • An episode of Braceface, "The Good Life", explores this when Sharon and her friends are chosen by a Music Star, Leena, to be in her newest Music Video. Sharon sees first-hand that, contrary to her fantasies about stardom being glamorous and luxurious, Leena's star life is miserable. She can't eat whatever she wants to eat, the media always gossips about her, she's homesick for her sister, and her overprotective bodyguard treats everyone she approaches like a stalker. In the end, Sharon lampshades it herself.
    Sharon: My Mom was right, money can't buy happiness. I mean even with all those perks, Leena still seemed totally miserable. To me, it looked like all she wanted were the things that had been taken away from her, family, her freedom, and the chance to be herself, things I've already got.
  • 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.
      Billy Corgan: We envy you, Homer. All we have is our music, our legion of fans, our million of dollars and our youth...
      Smashing Pumpkins: Woo-hoo!
      James Iha: Let's all go out and buy fur coats!
      Jimmy Chamberlin: I want a walk-in humidor.
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror II" story "Lisa's Nightmare", the Simpsons use a monkey's paw to wish for fame and fortune. Everybody knows who they are but are sick of them.
    • In "That '90s Show", Homer tells about the time he became famous as the leader of the grunge band Sadgasm:
      Homer: I had finally realized every rock star's dream: hating being famous.
    • Happens to Milhouse Van Houten in "Radioactive Man". He didn't really want to be Fallout Boy in the first place and simply got forced into it. As the episode goes on, Milhouse is just further and further disillusioned no matter how much Bart or anyone else tries to spin being a celebrity to him.
  • 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 attention 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 Catchphrase, 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 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.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show. Stimpy wins the Gritty Kitty contest, becoming a star in Hollywood. However, he misses Ren and decides to give it all away. Ren is touched that Stimpy gave away all his fame and fortune for him… before realizing Stimpy gave away all his fame and fortune (but mostly the fortune).
  • BoJack Horseman features this as a Central Theme. The titular protagonist is an old, washed-up Hollywood actor whose fame and fortune have done nothing to prevent him from becoming a chronically depressed, self-loathing drug addict with a long history of broken relationships with nearly all of his family, friends, and lovers. Also, BoJack's younger colleague Sarah Lynn had long lost her childhood innocence and became a similarly miserable junkie.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien has this start happening to Ben. After working in the shadows and with a secret identity, his identity in terms of being an alien shapeshifting hero becomes known to the world. While it does mean he no longer has to live a double life nor hide things from people, it does also bring a large amount of pressure and unforeseen troubles. During his fight with a remutated Kevin 11, he actually responds that he wishes he had his anonymity back.
  • Sabrina: The Animated Series (several years before the live-action sitcom) has an episode where Sabrina, Hilda, Zelda and Chloe form a Girl Group for a talent show. They cast a spell to become famous pop stars, but fame ends up driving a wedge between the best friends Sabrina and Chloe - and Harvey turns his back on them after finding them too boring and self-interested. The witches in the group then discover that as a side effect of the spell, they lost their magic in exchange for fame. Everyone of course patches things up just in time for the spell to end.

    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. In a 2019 Netflix special, Chappelle even mocked his own fans, saying that they will "hold things over his head for 10 or 15 years" and regarding anyone who still wants him to go back to something like Chappelle's Show as an Unpleasable Fanbase.
  • J. D. Salinger rued his fame brought by The Catcher in the Rye. He famously hid 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 fueled his sex drive. 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 '80s 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.
  • Professional athletes have this as well. Tom Brady has made no secret of how much he dislikes the fishbowl he and his family have to live in. John Elway literally could not go anywhere in Colorado without drawing a mob, and after visiting Europe once he commented on how much he enjoyed being there and able to go anywhere with his family and not be recognized. Tiger Woods is a very private person who is in a profession that doesn't exactly lend itself to that. Like many of the other people listed here, there's a reason why they buy large mansions on vast's about the only place where they can get any privacy.
  • Elvis Presley used to rent an entire movie theater for a night, just to be able to relax and watch a movie without being bothered.
  • 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 afterward 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 a genuine lack of understanding of 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 (this incident was one of the things that inspired Misery), one can understand his unhappiness.
  • Mara Wilson was a burgeoning child talent in The '90s 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 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. When she does work in the public eye, it's in low-key independent productions (for example, she is the voice of The Faceless Old Woman Who Lives In Your House in Welcome to Night Vale ) or writing for online platforms like
  • Howard Hughes, famous aviator, businessman, 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.
  • Captain Beefheart was a struggling musician for most of his productive career and despite his importance in the field of alternative music hardly sold any albums. In 1982, just when he received more critical attention and appreciation, he decided to quit the music industry altogether and lived as a recluse in his home near the Mojave Desert in California. He began a new career as a painter, but hardly gave any interviews anymore, nor did he appear in public for the last 28 years of his life.
  • Syd Barrett recorded two albums with Pink Floyd, but then started to suffer from mental and drug problems. He released two bizarre Cult Classic solo albums at the start of the 1970s and after that completely disappeared out of public view up until his death in 2006.
  • Film director Stanley Kubrick hardly appeared in public ever since he moved to the United Kingdom in the 1960s. He seldom gave interviews and refused to talk much about his work.
  • Belgian comic strip artist Pom of the comic book series Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber lived as a cranky recluse for most of his life. He didn't want to be bothered by anyone, refused most interviews and even book signing sessions. He had such a Creator Backlash about his past career that he told every visitor that he would rather die than be constantly reminded about it.
  • Hollywood actress Greta Garbo is perhaps the best illustration of this trope. She became the most famous actress of the first half of the 20th century, but refused all publicity and interviews, thus making her more mysterious and glamorous as a result. At the height of her fame, in the 1940s, she quit acting altogether and appeared totally out of public view for the final 40 years of her life. She kept the press at a distance and photographing old age Garbo became something of a challenge for journalists since hardly anyone knew what she looked like by this point.
  • Hollywood legend Marlon Brando is another example of someone who refused to be part of the Hollywood star system. Despite being world-famous, Brando constantly rebelled against directors, producers, and executives who wanted to work with him, and thus reached a point that only the bravest or naïve directors wanted to collaborate with him. But Brando didn't care. In his final years, he spent most of his spare time on a private island in Polynesia and hardly appeared in public anymore. His only public appearance in decades occurred when his son Christian Brando was put on trial for murder.
  • Famous chess player Bobby Fischer became a sensation at the start of the 1970s when he won an Olympic tournament. Immediately after he became a recluse and even disassociated himself from the United States altogether.
  • After his wife died, Rick Moranis retired acting in 1997 to raise his kids, who were then toddlers. He also expressed his discontentment with Hollywood.
  • Notch, the original developer behind Minecraft, sold Mojang to Microsoft and left the company precisely because he felt he doesn't want to be a symbol "responsible for something huge that [he] doesn’t understand, that [he] doesn’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to [him]" (said "symbol" being his fame for developing Minecraft).
  • Roger Hodgson of Supertramp left the band, quit touring, and led a relatively low profile in The '80s and The '90s to raise a family and settle down. He also felt alienated by fame, the music industry, and playing more and more tightly choreographed shows to less and less intimate audiences as their fame increased with Breakfast In America in the late 1970s.
  • Part of the reasons for the breakup (and non-reunion) of short-lived 1990's Power Pop band Jellyfish were, as keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning Jr. later mentioned, to do with vocalist/drummer Andy Sturmer's unease with fame and the attention that comes with it. Sturmer felt more comfortable being creative in the studio than he did as the frontman of a rock group. His music scoring, session singing, and production/songwriting work are more out of the spotlight than with Jellyfish.
  • Adam Duritz of Counting Crows struggled with the fame brought on by their hit album August and Everything After. Many of the songs on their next album Recovering the Satellites have lyrics dealing with this.
  • While Robbie Williams is still an active performer, he makes his home in the United States precisely because it's the one place in the world where he's not a megastar, allowing him a break from the rigors of fame and allowing him to provide a normal life for his family.
  • When A. A. Milne wrote the Winnie-the-Pooh books, he based the character Christopher Robin on his then-four-year-old son, Christopher Robin Milne. As he grew up, C. R. Milne came to hate being associated with and eventually being overshadowed by his fictional namesake. He never really recovered; he was relentlessly bullied in school, his father had poor parenting skills and was distant towards him, and he felt his father had exploited him. It was only just before he died at the age of 75 that he reported that he could look at the Winnie-the-Pooh books without flinching.
  • Rose McGowan in her autobiography Brave describes the early 2000s as especially traumatic for her because of this. Thanks to newfound fame from Charmed (1998) (she had only done indie films and Scream (1996) beforehand) and new camera phone technology, she wasn't prepared to be swarmed by fans whenever she went out. One day she went to visit the Vatican City and got chased by a mob of people, one of whom ripped a chunk of her hair out. She also ended up with massive body image issues, dieting excessively to look like women in magazines, and spending ridiculous amounts of money on a stylist that made her "look like a plastic weirdo" to fit the Hollywood standards of beauty.


Video Example(s):


Alan Wake

Alan came to Bright Falls specifically to get away from his job as a writer, suffering from writer's block brought on by exhaustion. What happens? He gets routine calls from his agent bothering him about it, the first guy he meets is a local radio jockey who wants to interview him, the diner he walks into has a cardboard cutout of him standing there and the waitress is a fan who geeks out at him. Later, Rose makes a call on that very radio station to announce that he was there for the whole island, earning a resounding "uuugh!" from Alan when he hears it.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / CelebrityIsOverrated

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