Halloween is a time for people to dress up in costumes. At comic book conventions, people dress as their favorite movie, comic book, and cartoon characters. Halloween is like one giant comic-book convention. And if over the course of tonight I don’t see at least three people dressed as Steve Jobs, I’m going to be very surprised.
And a little disappointed. At last year’s New York Comic-Con, I saw someone walking around in a homemade Optimus Prime costume that was so true to the movie original that it, too, could out-act Shia LeBeouf. By comparison, a Steve Jobs costume is a snap: Jeans, turtleneck, and if you really want to go all-out, you need the right New Balance sneakers.
No, I’m being silly. I’ll definitely see some Steve Jobses. And not because so many people already have most of the components in their closets: it’s because just like the fictional pop-culture heroes, millions of people found something in Steve’s public life that they found relatable and relevant to their own lives.
Steve has been gone for less than four weeks. His face dominates the glossies on the newsstand. Even the celebrity mags. Last week’s People magazine featured a guy who, throughout an unusually productive life, was responsible for taking abstract technology and turning them into real products the average consumer could understand and benefit from. In the minds of the editors of “People,” the celebrity that could sell the most magazines this week was a man who actually built things, not a fitness instructor who did the husband of an actress of whom “People”’s readership is exploitably fond.
That’s very, very cool.
Though it feels weird to even think of Steve as a celebrity. The word is almost a backhanded insult, isn’t it? In Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant’s book on the screenwriting business, they describe a hierarchy. Tom Hanks is a movie star. He’s done so much great work carrying the lead roles in so many successful, high-profile movies that any script he wants to appear in will get made. One rung down, there are “movie actors” like Gary Sinise and Gary Oldman—some of these people are not named Gary, I should say—who are so good at what they do that they get to pick and choose from the roles that are offered to them.
And then there are… the celebrities. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are… celebrities. The reason why you call them “celebrities” instead of “actors” or “writers” or whatever it is that they do is that they don’t actually do anything. Their life’s work, the one passion that informs every choice they make, is their fame.
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