John McCain called Barack Obama "the biggest celebrity in the world." And, to be honest, he was right:
Our culture's obsession with famous people has been snowballing. First there were a few magazines detailing the lives of the rich and famous; then tabloids, then TV newshows, and now hungry paparazzi and a 24 hour web gossip cycle in which we are inundated with celebrity information.
And the very definition of celebrity has changed; thanks to YouTube, Facebook and MySpace, writes Robin Givhan for the Washington Post. "Everyone is famous, and everyone is fair game. Life has been transformed into one endless red-carpet moment: a nonstop parade in which we twirl and pose, or bob and weave, and try to manage our personal image."
For the past couple of years, in an era of Britney, Paris and Lindsay, many complained that being famous no longer held the same cachet: Instead of being about an untouchable allure, stars were no longer heavenly bodies. They were suddenly brought down to earth.
But now, we have a man who has reignited the media circus. Photographers snapped images of him bodysurfing in Hawaii; there was frenzied interest in his daughters' first day of school. The Obamas are a new kind of celebrity, according to a piece in the new New York magazine. "I would put them up there with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie," says Chris Doherty, owner of photo agency INF. Veteran pap Dennis Van Tine says his Obama photos are outearning his Lindsay Lohan stock. "A photo of him smoking would definitely fetch over $100,000," says Splash News CEO Gary Morgan, who plans to send more photographers to D.C.
Right this minute, Barak Obama is gearing up for his shoot with Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair, inspiring soda slogans and getting footwear designers all excited. The kind of stuff that used to be reserved for starlets or screen goddesses.
Here's the question: Is it better for this country to be interested in the life of the President-Elect instead of a bubble-headed blonde? What if it means an invasion of privacy for Obama's family and young children? And does treating the President like a celebrity — and not like an elected official — mean disrespecting the man and his office?
POTUS Weekly, The New Ad Campaign: Why Pepsi Loves the President [New York Mag]
With Everyone on It, The Red Carpet Is Wearing Thin [WaPo]
The VF Spread Cometh [Politico]
First Fashion [Portfolio]