People Are Corporations!
I've written before (here and here, most notably) on my concerns with corporate personhood. But lately I've been reflecting on another troubling trend: personhood incorporated. I don't suppose this is a new trend; celebrities, for example, have always had entourages--teams who attended to them and accompanied them everywhere. I think I started to realize that individual celebrities actually represented whole universes of employment and output when (a) I saw Bono from U2 congratulate a stageworker on his retirement during a show in Pittsburgh and (b) I heard some country singer talk about pop singer Adele's 2011 throat surgery and the economic impact on everybody who works for her thanks to canceled shows and delayed recordings. That actually helped me understand the phenomenon of celebrity better: it takes a village, it seems, to keep a fickle public interested in an actor or musician in between releases, and that sustained interest is a driver of success for future products. It's simple free-market economics. Then, of course, you have celebrities who are famous for nothing. The Kardashians are the most notable examples; they have any number of television series that consist of little more than home movies, with conspiracy theories suggesting that any drama that enters into these meandering documentaries is manufactured to keep the viewers interested. Even marriages and divorces, so the scuttlebutt goes, are contrivances cooked up to make us care about the Kardashians and get us to visit their stores and buy their fragrances or whatever. The Kardashians aren't exactly what I'm troubled by, though. They were absurdly wealthy before they got absurdly famous, and I think they simply (and very shrewdly) gamed the system that their celebrity friends are forced to play in order to expand an already profitable enterprise. I'm actually more troubled by the likes of "Honey Boo Boo Child," a young girl whose family has organized itself around her as their best shot at fame and fortune: first in the child beauty pageant community and now in the field of reality television.