download

There is a concept in existential philosophy by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir called, “Bad Faith.” It is the idea that we can consciously deceive ourselves into shifting from being a subject within the world to being merely an object. The example Sartre most commonly gives is a waiter who is too “waiter-esque.” S/he moves too quickly, rigidly, and enunciates his words too perfectly so that they are recognized as a waiter. S/he does this because s/he is so entirely aware that they are a waiter and so instead of being a person (a subject), they become essentially a cardboard cutout waiter (an object).

Amy Winehouse when asked if she thought she would become famous said, “I think I would go mad. It’s a scary thing. Very scary” and, “I don’t think I could handle it.” In Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace said, “To be envied, admired, is not a feeling. Nor is fame a feeling. There are feelings associated with fame, but few of them are any more enjoyable than the feelings associated with envy of fame.” Fame seems to be society’s tool to producing bad faith. As somebody becomes more famous, they shift from being a subject to being a commodity; an object. They become a product. They are expected to produce and their production is consumed. It’s hard to ever shift back into the subjective and being a subject because they are followed around by the looming shadow of fame.

Ultimately, even if the artist is able to retain their subjectivity, fame follows closely as a reminder that they are still a product in and of society. That there is now a supply and demand on them, on their thoughts, and on their creations. They are not so much sought after as them-as-them but instead as them-as-a-product. With each new “product,” society’s demand increases until the person, even if dealing with real, subjective, human shit has to create, has to produce as them-as-a-product rather than them-as-them. If they are unable to meet the demand, then society begins to cannibalize them-as-a-product through media and sensationalism. The real horror of fame is that you are constantly forced into bad faith.

Amy Winehouse, while becoming a meme of drug addiction on the internet, really died due to fame. Her personal issues were prompted due to fame and then trying to sort her personal issues out were exasperated by fame. She was unable to escape paparazzi. She died of alcohol overdose which she was very aware would kill her. Her doctor had told her that if she drank heavily again her heart would stop. She essentially committed suicide.

David Foster Wallace in This Is Water, said, “Think of the old cliché about ‘the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.’ This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head.” Yet, he hung himself which is revealing when coupled with his views on fame. He hung himself seemingly symbolically as a cessation of speech. The immediate fame from Infinite Jest would be the death of him so he ended himself preemptively.

learning every day to be perfect,
learning every day their virtues,
advice-given morals not lessons,
weaken the value; the mind lessens.
following these blind rules to pursue
a “faithful” lifestyle, not to be true
sitting in their perch, they sit still,
against everything: fight genetics, kill free will,
obstinate and stagnant, they reprieve,
depressed and anxious, they believe

-n.v.