The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America - Chapter 2 - Section IV-VI Summary & Analysis

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Chapter 2 - Section IV-VI Summary and Analysis

Section IV begins by comparing celebrities and heroes. Boorstin claims that heroes create themselves, whereas the media is responsible for creating celebrities. Heroes became more concrete and revered with the passage of time. By contrast, the celebrity is always contained within the present and requires a constant stream of publicity and pseudo-events to maintain celebrity status. Many celebrities have regulated the flow of publicity and image dispersal in order to maintain their status over a longer period of time. In addition, the personality quirks of celebrities are often their distinguishing characteristics and therefore need to be nurtured, creating a kind of false self.

Section V discusses the exploits of Charles Lindbergh, which in the eyes of Boorstin, were heroic. However, as Boorstin states, he fell prey to becoming a celebrity, which subsequently annulled his hero status. Lindbergh was the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean flying solo in a single propeller airplane. Lindbergh himself seemed aware of his potential celebrity and signed a contract with the New York Times for his story. According to Boorstin, Lindbergh's publicity in the paper was "unprecedented". His publicity had the effect of turning him into a celebrity, and thus a pseudo-event. He continued to draw the public eye because of his marriage, the abduction of his son, and even the degree to which he was attempting to stay out of the press.

The disappearance of his son drew others in to enhance their own prestige, including "crime celebrities" such as Al Capone. In addition, the crime itself created new celebrities including Norman Swarzkopf. When Lindbergh's celebrity status declined, it took his hero status along with it.

In section VI, Boorstin describes the power of celebrity to obscure the heroic and ultimately to destroy it. He attributes a good deal of this power to the graphic revolution. Celebrities are constantly re-made and re-asserted through publicity and the needs of the public. Boorstin continues that even the old heroes only retain their power to the extent that they are understood as celebrities. He concludes by discussing how even the term hero has been relegated to the experiences of young children or naïve adults. He states, "Among the ironic frustrations of our age, none is more tantalizing than these efforts of ours to satisfy our extravagant expectations of human greatness."

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