Sunday, 3 October 2010

Russell Brand on Celebrity

I've never been a fan of Russell Brand.  Until Friday I probably would have described him as a crude, insensitive, exhibitionist egomaniac.  Many people would of course add "extremely funny" to that list, but I'm afraid I've struggled to see past those first four things!

While I can't say that my impression has changed completely, I was reminded on Friday that human beings are multi-layered and complex and that there's nearly always a lot more to people than first meets the eye.

On Friday, Russell gave an interview to Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight, on the subject of "the cult of celebrity".  The full interview is still available on the BBC website here.  To me, Brand has been one of the people who has seemed to embody the shallowness of that cult, and yet I've rarely if ever heard a celebrity talk so much sense about it (or in so animated a fashion!).

Here are a few snippets from the interview:

Brand: We're presented with the attractive spectacle of fame to distract us from the mundanity of our every day lives.

Paxman: It's utterly empty.
Brand: Of course.

Paxman: In itself it is not something worth striving for.
Brand: It has absolutely no value of itself.  It's a spectacle, an illusion, a distraction.  I think all of us are aware of that on some level.

Paxman: I sometimes think it might be something to do with religion - and the decline of religion.
Paxman: It's about significance.  Famous people appear to have significance and previously it was religion that gave people that sense they had a significance.

Brand: ... No-one cares about religion anymore ... because we've been fed this grey sludge of celebrity glittered up and packaged and lacquered and sent directly into our brains by the media that both you and I work for in different degrees.

Paxman: What happens to you when [fame] arrives?
Brand: What happens is you have the initial thrill of achievement - [you think] "Oh my word!" - the same as if you'd acquired a pair of shoes that you'd long craved and then you realise that the shoes are too tight, they ain't comfortable, "I want another pair of shoes!", "Walking around in these things ain't the same as I thought it would be!", and you realise that you need nutrition from a higher source, something more valuable.  Celebrity in and of itself is utterly utterly vacuous.  It's like being presented with the most glorious meal and then when you eat it there's no taste, there's no succour, there's no nutrition.  It's tiresome.
Brand: Now that I'm here I wonder if it's possible to use it to acquire something more valuable, more beautiful and to illuminate those ideas.
Brand: Someone told me once that all desire is the desire to be at one with God in substitute form.  So perhaps we can draw attention not to the shadow on the wall but to the source of light itself.

Paxman: Do you believe in God?
Brand: Yes.
Paxman: Do you worship?  Do you go to church?  What do you do?
Brand: I pray and I meditate and I try to align my desires with things that are less selfish and it's an ongoing struggle because of the egotism and the needs in me and stuff.  I'm just trying to be a better person.

Paxman: What do you think we should aim for then?
Brand: I think that we should try to examine the things that we're using to make us happy - this pursuit of celebrity, of wealth, of status, this consuming of products, this ignorance towards ecological and economical matters and try and aspire to something more beautiful - something more truthful and honest.
Brand: Perhaps if we were all in tune with more beautiful things, perhaps we wouldn't prioritise such peculiar ideas and notions.

Comments anyone?

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm. Clearly four years of fame taking its toll. Of course, hypocrisy is fine, people change.

    "I'm not one of those celebrities who moans, 'Please don't bother me'. I say, 'For God's sake, pester me'. "My previous life was so boring, I want you to photograph me all the time. I hound the paparazzi day and night. I'm constantly door-stepping them and shouting through their letterboxes. People don't realise just how exhausting it is chasing paparazzi all the time. 'Please,' they cry, 'leave us alone. Give us some dignity!' "


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