Are We Addicted to Fame?

ByABC News
January 5, 2007, 9:57 AM

Jan. 5, 2007— -- If you could wave a magic wand and make yourself smarter, stronger, more beautiful, or famous, which would you pick? I was surprised by how many people pick fame over everything else.

On a cold December morning in Times Square this winter, dozens of people volunteered to strip down to bathing suits and get spray-painted blue, red, green and yellow, to try to look like M&M's. It was a promotion for the candy company. When I asked these people why they'd take part in such a stunt -- especially when they were not being paid -- most told me it was because they love attention.

"Everybody wants to show who they are," said one man painted head-to-toe in yellow. "Me, I just wanna be me."

I said, "You're not you, you're an M&M!"

That's when a woman (she was green) interjected, "You're here to cover us though, so obviously we're important. It's better than going to a shrink."

Maybe these M&M's should go to a shrink. That people would get painted and run around in the cold doesn't surprise Leigh Hallisey, who teaches a course on TV and Popular Culture at Boston University's College of Communication.

"It used to be enough that you got attention from your parents. You got attention from your teachers, your peers and that sort of thing, but that is no longer enough," said Hallisey. "We want attention from the worldwide media."

And the worldwide media is happy to supply it. Magazines like "Us Weekly" celebrate fame. Editor-in-chief Janice Min told ABC, "You don't even have to be so talented to be famous. You just have to be outrageous, well dressed, gorgeous, date the right person."

And why do people want to read about that?

Jake Halpern, author of the new book "Fame Junkies," theorizes that celebrity magazines like "Us Weekly," "People" and "In Touch" are so popular because people are lonely. Halpern points out that today more young people tend to marry later in life and more can afford their own living spaces, so they spend more time alone.