Some thoughts on pop culture personas

I was in Vegas this last weekend and got to see Criss Angel perform. If you don't know who Criss Angel, he is a really popular stage magician. He's been on a couple shows and does some really good performances. He's also quite a favorite of the ladies. The next day I went to a signing he was doing with a friend of mine and it was interesting because when she got to him, he mentioned how tired he looked and how if he took his sunglasses off, he looked like crap and she told him that he'd never look that way. And what was so interesting about that exchange was that Criss the person might feel like crap, but to this fan, my friend, the pop culture persona of Criss could not ever look like or feel like crap...and it was that persona she wanted to interact with, that idealized version of Criss as opposed to the very real person of Criss who was tired and felt like crap that day. To me this exchange demonstrates a fundamental truth of pop culture magic, as applied to celebrities, which is that what fans interact with isn't the real person, but rather the idealized persona god-form of the celebrity. The fan interacts with the celebrity, but not so much with the real person. So Criss, for example, is tired and tells this person that, but to her, he can't be tired or look anything other than how she wants to see what she's interacting with is Criss the pop culture entity, as opposed to Criss the person.

The peril of celebrity is that it creates an entity which is the celebrity persona, who is different from the real person. And it is the celebrity persona entity that ends up taking over most of the interactions that this person has. Fed into this persona is all the expectations and desires of the fans. This persona consequently is the shadow of the real person and can have quite an effect on the real person, in terms of behavior, because that person is trying to live up to fan expectations via the effect the persona has on him/her. There is a stress or pressure on the person that is created by the celebrity persona entity, which is fed by the desires of the fans. Ultimately the behavior of the celebrity can be influenced by those same fans to some degree, because its what feeds the celebrity persona entity.