Joseph Nathan Cohen

Department of Sociology, CUNY Queens College, New York, NY

Uses of Fame

Part of a lecture that I gave on the topics of fame and celebrity.

Original Video Description

A discussion of fame’s uses. This is an excerpt from a presentation by Professor Joseph Cohen at the City University of New York, Queens College at a joint presentation between Queens College’s Sociology Workshop and the Queens Podcast Lab’s Learning Series.

Transcription (Auto-Generated)

let’s talk about uses of fate i’m going to be really quick because i realize i’m running out of time and i want to have a lot of time for discussion how do people use fame um there are four types of discussions about how fame is deployed that we’ve come across or that have come up in our discussions um the first are psychic rewards so i i think a lot of aspiring celebrities uh think about uh these they’re young people they think about esteem impressing their friends getting the love of strangers feeling wanted and things like that and the micro celebrities who we interviewed they they appreciate they do feel esteem they are flattered that people follow them they are very grateful but like i said it that i don’t know it it it it’s it feels very much like they are that the investment is lower than you might expect uh they do enjoy fame if it’s part of an activity that they enjoy or that’s a creative outlet uh and for some people fame can be a mixed blessing i had a discussion first of all i’m going to talk about it earlier this week i did a podcast with carrie ferris who’s one of sociology’s leading sociologists of fame and she said in her work you know a lot of female news anchors for example they get harassed they don’t like it they have people come up to them at dinner you know when they’re at a restaurant to interrupt and it’s unpleasant or it makes you feel unsafe and so renown can be a mixed blessing and for some people it’s just like it’s a fact of life that they have to deal with given the type of work they do they’re in a communication-centric line of work and this is like the price you have to pay it’s not unlike for example what a professor might feel like if somebody interrupts their dinner you know in the cafeteria while they’re having friends if they were to get a steady stream of that you’re grateful you’re accessible you know but it can be too much there there are instances where it can be too much and even threatening the second reason is money and my sense is that fame is not easy to monetize monetizes the word that they use converting fame into money and it’s really quite difficult and even people who are uh quite famous they generally they’ve reported you know modest modest incomes a lot of them have a lot of people who i thought were quite famous had day jobs um or they had other sources of income fame in and of itself even when you’re well known uh you might not uh lend itself to making much money unless you’re extremely famous and often it’s a subordinate uh motive anyways like we i i think there are many creators they know how they could become more popular uh there are ways that you could easily create an enterprise that is more popular by doing something controversial or taking up topics that are you know taboo or whatever but like people don’t want to uh because fame is often not the main goal what is valuable to a lot of our respondents is status and group membership uh there are some creators who are a lot like academics you know how academics they love sociology they want to build sociology they want to meet other sociologists they want to become respected in the field of sociology so that those type of dynamics occur in a lot of areas of interest from comic books to like vacation theme park you know time share whatnot like there’s all sorts and we’ve run into creators who look a lot like professors on you know esoteric subjects that don’t fit neatly into uh into uh you know an academic discipline but they’re still very serious about it and a lot of those dynamics exist the last thing that celebrity is uh thought to be useful for is influence and um celebrity can give you the power of exposure it gives you the power to deliver a message to someone but research into celebrity endorsers shows that it’s more complicated than that audiences evaluate celebrities as if they were like they do other people in their lives they evaluate how much they trust a celebrity how competent they think a celebrity is to comment or make an appraisal of an object that they’re speaking about and they’ll listen to them as they would any other person in their life so for example if tom hanks says you know go get your covet vaccine there are people who might reject you know not everybody will listen to tom hanks even if they like him they might say well tom hanks has different politics from me or tom hanks is not a medical professional so people are thoughtful in how they evaluate uh how they evaluate the influence of celebrities