Here is an interesting article from Wired about a convention for people who have gained Internet fame:  The article (and there are others on the site about the same convention) talks about redefining what it means to be famous.  This part in particular I thought was interesting:

“[Hollywood celebrities] cease to be famous when we see them as they are,” a concept he demonstrated by showing several gossip magazine pictures of celebrities without their makeup. “Blogging, however, is all about taking off the ‘makeup.’ They’re exposing themselves as fallible human beings.”

I wonder if this is entirely true.  Do we really want famous people to be just like us, or do we like the idea that there is something glamorous and mysterious about them?  On the one hand, maybe we like to imagine a fantasy world where celebrities live fabulous lives that we can only dream of, but on the other hand, we enjoy seeing candid pictures and other things that remind us that celebrities are human too.  I don’t agree that people cease to be famous once they are “exposed” as real people.  In a lot of ways it adds to the intrigue.  I think we like to see celebrities as normal people because (maybe subconsciously) it makes us feel like we could be in their position, if that is something that is desirable. 

Yes, the Internet makes it a lot easier for “average” people to become celebrities, but I think that’s just an outgrowth of our fame-obsessed culture.  People are yearning to be famous, so we’re creating new ways to become famous and new ways to put ourselves out there for others to see.  Mainstream media has fueled this by reporting on viral video stars, referencing them in pop culture, and inviting them on talk shows.  Celebrities have done plenty (willingly or otherwise) to expose themselves as fallible human beings, and while certain public displays or scandals can hurt their careers, they do not make them less famous.  In fact, the opposite is true.  The bigger the scandal or outrageous the behavior, the more famous the person becomes.  The question is more about what kinds of fame are desirable, but for a lot of people, just being famous is the goal.  You can become a lot more famous in the general population for doing something stupid in an Internet video than you can for winning the Nobel Prize for Physics, but that truly is a fleeting form of fame, at least these days.  I guess the question is whether we will ever reach the point where the Star Wars kid or Obama Girl is noted in the history books alongside Nobel Prize winners.