Celebrity Culture

Marcello Sachs '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

Ever since the birth of photographic media, certain stars have held the dutiful attention of the public — for example, see The Onion. Film and television allow audience members to envelop themselves in the lives of on-screen characters, to become involved in more interesting situations featuring more beautiful faces. Fans can also follow the lives of stars outside of the fictional worlds in which they work by reading tabloids and watching TV shows like Access Hollywood. In the future Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive describes, sim-stim, a media experience that exactly simulates life in another person's body, fully relaizes the vicarious pleasure involved in celebrity culture. While getting off a plane and into the Sprawl, Eddy casually asks Mona about her stim-preference:

"You like stims, Mona?" Prior asked, still smiling.

"Sure," she said, "who doesn't?"

"Have a favorite, Mona, a favorite star?"

"Angie," she said, vaguely irritated. "Who else?"

The smile got a little bigger. "Good. We'll get you all of her latest tapes."(85)

Discussion Questions

1. Is our world headed towards Gibson's? Will people completely abandon their own lives for those of others?

2. In such a future, would the idea of celebrity lose its magic? After all, part of the appeal of celebrities is that they are hard to access. Once we can literally walk in their shoes, will familiarity extinguish fascination?

3. Today the distinction between fictional experiences and reality becomes blurry; we will many times reminisce about film or television characters we think we knew even though we never actually met them. Would sim-stim make the distinction even harder to delineate? Would there even be any distinction at all?

4. A celebrity is a person who is unlike any other person due to their looks, acting, etc. If one could live the life of a celebrity what then defines a celebrity? How does one become worthy of a sim-stim?


Gibson, William Mona Lisa Overdrive. New York: Bantam Books, 1985.

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 31 October 2006