Flies to wanton boys.

Alec Baldwin has, like Shia LeBoeuf before him, decided to withdraw from public life. In admittedly ironic manner, he announced this by speaking to New York magazine. The piece has been reproduced online over at Vulture. I encourage you to read it.

In his piece, Baldwin makes a lot of sensible points with characteristic bombast. But the bombast is kind of the idea – he’s a larger than life character. His problem is that the current model of celebrity doesn’t allow for larger than life characters. And it certainly doesn’t leave any room for flawed characters or people who make mistakes.

I’m disinterested in the things that Baldwin has done (or reportedly done) that have brought him to this decision. I’m interested in the broader idea of celebrity and what it says about us. What does it say about our needs?

When we look back at earlier civilisations, we tend to pat ourselves on the back for how much we have distanced ourselves from their savagery. Roman circuses. Aztec sacrifice. The Reign of Terror. Hundred of years from now, the people who look back at us will pay careful attention to the way we choose certain people seemingly at random, build them up as gods, and then capriciously destroy them.

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