Monday, May 4, 2009

A Little Wordplay

I was coming out of my therapy session on Friday, and I noticed three or four EXIT signs in the space of what seemed like 20 feet. My mind, being twisted the way it is, started to play around with the word.

After seeing the third EXIT sign, I started to read it as "Ex-It," as in the flavor of the month celebrity. We are big believers in celebrity. The vast majority of us kneel at the altar of fame.

I suppose it's always been that way. In the 1920s, the world went wild for Charles Lindbergh after he flew across the Atlantic. These days, we have massive parades for every sports team that wins a championship in its respective league.

Of course, not everyone can be a famous aviator or athlete, but most of us want our moment in the sun, our time in the spotlight. Leave it to television to provide not one but several "solutions."

First, there was the good old game show. Some, like Jeopardy, require some ability or talent. Others, like Let's Make a Deal and The Gong Show, only seemed to require a willingness to throw all human restraint out the window.

Now, with shows like American Idol, people can combine their quest for fame or notoriety with their need for instant gratification, provided they fit the right age demographic and are prepared to fade from public view almost as far as they arrived.

Aside from Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, has any winner or finalist from American Idol shown any staying power? Ruben Studdard is now trying to make a living in touring companies of Broadway shows. What about Clay Aiken and Taylor Hicks? Whither they?

Chances are, those who have fallen so fast will not be back. We live in a society searching so frantically for the Next Big Thing we have no time for "yesterday's news." While we say we like a good comeback story, we seldom allow it to happen.

One notable exception, for better or worse, appears to be Britney Spears. For several years starting in the late 1990s, Britney was definitely "it." Her face and voice (not to mention her lack of attire) were everywhere. Then she spiraled out of control and, if anything, became more famous, because if there is anything we like more than a successful celebrity it is one rushing headlong toward the inevitable train wreck.

Yet, just as things began to quiet down and Britney was moving toward "Ex-It" status, she managed to stage what so far has been a fairly successful comeback. Perhaps it is only a temporary reprieve from "Ex-It" status. If that is in fact the case, she will have plenty of company as an "Ex-It."

Isn't it funny the journey one's mind can take just from looking at a sign.

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