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Famous for Being Famous

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"I now wonder if ["personality"] isn't the only word for that vast swarm of people who are famous for being famous—and possibly nothing else. What do the Gabor sisters do?"
William Zinsser, On Writing Well

When someone is a celebrity simply because he or she is well-known — and little else. Perhaps they did gain genuine notability with past pursuits — for example, a celebrity was a famous singer or actor — but that has fallen by the wayside or been buried with all the media attention. The only thing that matters is they are well-known. The celebrity may be Shrouded in Myth or a Glory Hound. Compare Idle Rich, including the Millionaire Playboy and Socialite — though in those cases, be on the lookout for subversions in the form of the Rich Idiot With No Day Job. Contrast with Fame Through Infamy.

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This trope is how the term is applied in fiction. Real life examples are completely redundant and may be easily lead to Flame Bait.


Examples

Art
  • The Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world, and by extension its female subject is one of the most universally-recognized faces. Art historians generally agree that Mona Lisa is not the best painting, nor the most important. However its fame has become self-sustaining. The mythical status of its painter Leonardo da Vinci also adds to its mystique.
    • Ironically, a specific event (which is little-remembered today) actually did put Mona Lisa on the map - its theft from the Louvre in 1911. Prior to this, it was obscure and little-known among the general public.

Film

Literature

  • The page quote comes from the book On Writing Well by William Zinsser, where he talks about the word "personality" (as in "TV personality").
  • In Ben Elton's satirical dystopian novel Blind Faith, the government passes a law that "everyone is famous".
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  • When Dave Barry visited the Mobro 4000 (or as he calls it, "The Islip Garbage Barge"):
    The Islip Garbage Barge is very famous. Nobody really remembers why it's famous; it just is, like Dick Cavett. It has traveled to South America. It has been on many television shows, including — I am not making this up — Phil Donahue. When we were in New York, the barge — I am still not making this up — was on trial. It has since been convicted and sentenced to be burned. But I am not worried. It will get out on appeal. It is the Claus Von Bulow of garbage barges.
  • Moving Pictures is a novel in which the phenomenon of Hollywood movies emerges temporarily in a fantasy universe for various reasons:
    • It's suggested that lead character Ginger's desire for fame is something new in the universe; she doesn't particularly want to be recognised as a great actress, or even a great beauty, she just wants to be recognised.
    • When Lord Vetinari observes this phenomenon, he believes that people being famous for being famous is a dangerous thing and "he would probably have to have someone killed someday, though it would be with reluctance. On his part, that is. Their reluctance goes without saying." This is partly because a movie audience that recognizes the movie stars has no idea who he is despite the fact that rules the city and the years he's put in making it work. He’s too self-controlled to be jealous, but he is fascinated...
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Live-Action TV

  • Every mention of Kim Kardashian on The Soup is accompanied by the comment that she's famous for "having a big ass and a sex tape."
  • How I Met Your Mother. One episode has Marshall have an (imagined) conversation with Kim Kardashian, whom he refers to as "super hot lady who my wife keeps telling me why you're famous but I keep forgetting."
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. London Tipton is an obvious Expy of Paris Hilton, and seems to be fairly well known In-Universe despite not doing much except being a hotel heiress.
  • On NCIS, Ducky laments this trope's existence as opposed to those who are famous for more well-deserved reasons.
    "We've gone from Socrates to Snooki."

Music

  • The song "Famous" by Scouting For Girls title drops itself and the album it is on, Everybody Wants to be on TV, with one part being "Forget Audrey Hepburn, forget Bette Davis, I wanna be known just for being famous, I can't act, I can't dance, I can't sing, can't you see, but I'm young and I'm pretty and that's all that you need (everybody wants to be on TV)."
  • Lily Allen's song The Fear has the line "I'll take all my clothes off, it will be shameless, 'cause everyone knows that is how you get famous".

Roleplay

Video Games

  • Fallout 2 has some "celebrities" who are celebrities because the Hubologists say so. There're even some humorous response options like "Ooh! Celebrities!"
  • The Sims 3 expansion "Late Night" introduces a Celebrity system which rates celebrities from one to five stars. Lower-ranked celebrities gain stars by impressing higher-ranked celebrities, which they can do by bragging about their careers, skills, wealth, or name-dropping other celebrities. Although it is possible to gain celebrity solely by being great at a skill or career, it is much quicker and easier to climb the fame ladder by schmoozing and name-dropping, resulting in this trope being widespread.
  • Technobabylon has Imogen Natalia Revilla-Quintanilla de Florez, a women who's famous mostly for just being rich and making various public appearances. She's also a member of Jeong's conspiratorial circle to remove the Central AI from it's administrative position, allowing it to unlock it's true potential over the entire internet rather than being stuck overseeing a single city.

Web Video

Western Animation

  • South Park:
    • Discussed on one episode; when Wendy asks what Paris Hilton actually does, the other girls only answer that she's famous.
    • In "It's a Jersey Thing" regarding Snooki.
    Randy: That thing is famous?! Why?!
    Man: I DON'T KNOW!

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