I teach English at an academy deep inside the pampas of South America. My students are mostly upper-class kids who have smart phones. They range in age from sixteen to twenty-four. At our first class, I challenged them to tell me what they really want to do for a living, not what their parents or others want them to do, but what they want to do. They all confessed they want to become movie stars.
There is another teacher here, a bright local man in his early twenties who speaks such good English they made him a teacher (here, they have a hard time finding native English speakers, especially ones willing to work for five dollars per hour.) He’s quitting his job next week to move to Hollywood to become a movie star. Seriously.
I remember when I was fifteen my father asking me what I wanted to do with my life. I admitted I wanted to be famous. “At what?” he asked. I didn’t have much of an idea. I just knew I wanted to be a celebrity.
I remember my father was not pleased with my response. He thought it showed immaturity and latent narcissism. He was right.
Most people nowadays spend a frightening amount of time watching other people perform on Youtube, films or television. That’s in addition to the time they spend watching people perform in commercials. So it’s no wonder they want to be the one watched rather than the one watching, the one being paid rather than he who is paying. It’s a no-brainer. In the former case you’re hanging around in your trailer, hobnobbing with other celebrities and getting paid for your time like a third-world politician. In the latter case, you’re sitting in your basement or bedroom, watching other people simulate pleasure or excitement and compulsively eating.
So if we take the statement “I want to be a movie star” as a desire to the active rather than passive, a doer rather than a loafer, a burning desire to participate in the arts instead of as an admission of laziness and narcissism, then we can be less critical. Because let’s face it, we all secretly want to be movie stars, too.