Razzle Dazzle: The Fabrication of Fame
Parasites, heroes, and what our primal desires have to do with Frank Sinatra.
By Maria Popova
What, exactly, is fame? That’s precisely what The Museum of Moving Image explores in Razzle Dazzle — a fascinating new six-part video essay about how Hollywood has portrayed the various facets of fame, from heroism to infamy and everything in between.
This series about the individual’s primal desire to be loved and feared. To be known, period, by strangers. To be recognized and appreciated, whether for cultural importance, athletic skill, artistic excellence, or God-given natural endowments. It’s about the difference between success and celebrity, and how the two words have become interchangeable.”
The first chapter lays the groundwork for how Hollywood fits into the larger context of modern image culture, with subsequent chapters focusing on specific archetypes that dominate the media landscape — the Hero, the Parasite, the Fraud, the Maverick.
The media are the supercharged electrical currents that fame and infamy plug into.”
The series explores the craftsmanship of celebrity and the caveats of fame. (Which, as Frank Sinatra snarkily and brilliantly pointed out to young George Michael in 1990, may not be so bad after all.)
What BBC’s excellent The Century of the Self did for our understanding of consumerism, Razzle Dazzle does for our understanding of celebrity. And the parallels between the two – between what we’re conditioned to buy and what we’re conditioned to buy into – reveal remarkably similar mechanisms of manipulation.
We also highly recommend The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History — a lavish visual record of Hollywood’s collective rise to fame, featuring more than 800 rare vintage images from private collections and government archives. It explores the very mechanisms of glamour manufacturing and the various currencies of fame in a way that pulls you into the smoke and mirrors and arms you with powerful reality goggles, but leaves it up to you to decide whether or not to use them.
Published July 1, 2010