For starters, one exists today and the other doesn’t. There are authors who are celebrities- Neil Gaiman, Chuck Palahniuk, George R. R. Martin to name a few – but their’s is the type of fame that runs rampant through some circles while completely missing others.
Authors can still have significance. Zora Neale Hurston is a name that everyone should know if they don’t. Ernest Hemingway was never asked what it meant to be a man, or if he was, he wasn’t quoted on his answer, but the truth remains that his definition of a man resounded throughout generations. The man’s man protagonists featured in nearly everything he wrote can easily be seen as a prototype for modern American masculinity.
Names like Hemingway, Hurston, and Fitzgerald, while ingrained in American mythology, are only so many years back, and Hunter S. Thompson took his own life as recently as 2005. At the height of these people’s and their peers’ popularity books were the cutting edge, how anyone got to know anything of importance, and as a consequence, the people that wrote them became cultural icons. Their ability is not in question, but neither is the fact that they rode a fortunately timed wave.
The majority of people used to like to read. It used to be so you could go into a room and ask anyone what they’d read that day and they wouldn’t look at you crazy; their answer probably still wouldn’t be a book but maybe the paper, a magazine, something. People still read, I talk about that in this article, but the number simply isn’t what it used to be.
As time passed the public grew, and with it swelled the number of professions vying for its attention; music, movies, and television were the big three additions to the arena. If our society only had one type of cutting edge for its entirety things would get dull, the change was good; celebrity authors ceded their position at the front of society to rappers.
Power doesn’t just dissipate, when its holders disappear new people fill in place, it’s a well-known concept called a power vacuum. It’s how America justifies prolonged occupations of foreign countries, and the reason there were 2 different bars hosting ‘Country Night’ on my college campus last night (the regular bar that held the night closed and two new businesses thought they’d jump on the opportunity.)
Jokes aside, people spend more time listening to music than doing anything else; the top played videos on YouTube all are songs, all have over a billion views, and that’s with one of them not being taken seriously (No offense Gangnam Style, people laughed. A lot.) Wiz Khalifa has a day to day video series documenting his life; not music, not performances, his life. And people watch. And that’s okay, well, at least, I can’t judge because I can’t say how I would’ve acted if alive at the same time as the celebrities I idolize.
I’m not saying whether this is a good or bad, but if people aren’t questioned for idolizing authors, people that idolize rappers should be afforded the same courtesy.