To Mars and back – the lengths people go for fame

Earth and Mars. Photo: Ignacio Benvenuty Cabral
Earth and Mars. Photo: Ignacio Benvenuty Cabral
Richard Jordan
Richard Jordan is an award-winning UK and international theatre producer. He has been a regular contributor to The Stage since 2005.
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"Fame is a condition we all crave but no one wants to own" remarks David Baddiel in his honest and thought-provoking new stand-up show: Fame.

He goes on to tell his audience "here's something someone famous will never admit to, which is, being less famous than they once were".

Autumn's here and back on TV are the reality shows such as the X Factor featuring contestants who “crave fame”, while others such as I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here feature some now “less famous” celebrities hoping for a comeback.

Recently, I read a newspaper article reporting that Melissa Ede, a 52-year old transsexual from Hull, had applied to be a contestant on a new reality show planned for 2023. The concept is a journey to Mars in which four contestants will travel to be part of the Mars-One project intended to set up a human colony on the Red Planet and appear in a "Big Brother reality-style TV show". Already 165,000 people worldwide have applied to take part. However, there is a downside: the article reports contestants taking part may lose bone and muscle mass on the 140 million-mile trip and it being almost impossible to readjust to the Earth's much stronger gravity afterwards. In other words, this might be considered a one-way trip to being famous.

Last week, a different paper reported that Bob Geldof will be the first celebrity to fly into space having won this prize at a charity auction. While he no doubt bid a tidy sum for the privilege, and that's great news for the charity, the amount of TV coverage and interviews as a result will do no harm for Sir Bob himself helping put him back front and centre in the public's consciousness.

Geldof may be a legitimate celebrity and, unlike the Mars celebrity wannabes, will be travelling just 67 miles into space on the first return flights. Whether such an extreme reality show as the Mars-One project that TV executive producers are currently dreaming up could ever actually happen is debatable.

This is a brilliant exercise in PR spin, but behind it is a concerning and dark development in the fame game. Here these contestants willingly approach the concept with just a desperation to be famous at whatever the cost to health and well-being, without even the associated post-contest perks and panto appearances that today's hopefuls so desperately desire.

While the previously unknown Ms Ede, will most likely be staying on planet earth, even as an unlikely Mars candidate this all achieves media coverage for her. A trip to Mars therefore seems like the latest "must have" accessory for the fame hungry.

Fame in 2013 is no longer about talent but more often the amount of money someone is willing to pay a leading publicist to manufacture media to promote them.

And, more importantly, it's then about fully accepting they must without question do everything that's instructed of them however extreme and at whatever the psychological and physical cost.

For those who are willing to submit to all this then fame is potentially just a rocket ride away.

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