The history of a glamorous American staple
By Anne Gould Northgraves
Oh, the daydreams of how soft that burgundy path to fame and fortune must be. The glitz. The glamour. The attention. All eyes on you.
Most people have watched the rich and famous parade down the red carpet, eyes glued to the television memorizing every veneered, smiling face, every pricey frock, every wave to the screaming fans. Whether for film premieres, awards shows or someone’s particularly well-publicized birthday, there’s something about the red carpet that attracts average, everyday people’s interest. But the reasons—and effects—of the centerpiece of Tinsel Town are as varied as the people that walk down it.
Much of what attracts people to the red carpet has to do with the famous faces that are the focus of so much attention. Steven Gordon, assistant professor of television and radio at IC says that allure is affected partly by a desire to be in their shoes.
“Everybody has such a fascination with celebrity,” Gordon said. “Part of it is wish fulfillment. People dream about being celebrities.It’s also voyeurism. We love to see celebrities rise, and we love to see them fall as well. I think that sometimes makes us feel as though we can be as good as they are or better than they are, sometimes.”
While this malicious line of reasoning is certainly a factor in some viewing, just the thrill of seeing a well-known name is enough of a draw for others. During her time in Los Angeles for the semester, senior cinema and photography major Kelly Gannon actually went to the star-studded Hollywood premiere of Valentine’s Day at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in order to take photos of such a special event. “I figured it was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing,” Gannon said of her short stay in California. “It would be a cool experience to see the stars up close.”
In fact, actually being in attendance had a humanizing affect of Gannon’s view of celebrities. “It was kinda one of those things that made you realize that famous people are just like the rest of us,” she said. “Seeing them in person kind of breaks that barrier.”
Gordon said, “I think the red carpet just exploded because everyone passes through it to come in. It’s the place where everybody has to go.” He acknowledged how it can be an enjoyable experience for the actors and other industry people in attendance. “You’ve risen to the level that you get to put your feet on a red carpet” he said. It’s a level of validation.”
Morgan Pepper, a senior Television-Radio major concentrating in scriptwriting, similarly finds the red carpet a source of inspiration, encouraged her while pursuing her career. Going to the site of the Emmy red carpet even the night before, prior to any celebrities arriving, was exciting. “We really wanted to see it,” Pepper said. “Just the fact that we were there and got to see it, even though no one was there, it was still exciting.
“It provides a motivation,” she continued. “‘Here’s the red carpet. I want to be here some day.’ I would like to be interviewed [there] because I want to create a show that would be nominated at the Emmys.”
Pepper finds another aspect of the red carpet atmosphere—the live gathering of fans—particularly exciting for the artists that get to see fan reaction watching to feel the shared enjoyment.
“It’s cool that while they’re getting interviewed, you can hear the feedback of the fans being really excited,” she said. “If you were on that red carpet, imagine the people who are there just to see you and the show that you’re a part of.”
For such a simple stretch of brightly-colored flooring, the red carpet is a complex reality. Attracting fans for reasons bad—voyeurism, obsession—and good—excitement, recognition, inspiration—the red carpet, since becoming prominent in the 1920s, has become a strong factor in how success in the entertainment industry is gauged.
And while the showiness is problematic when considering the horrors in the world today, that is not what the industry is about. It is a world of appearances and accolades, which is precisely why we love it so much.
Anne Gould Northgraves is a senior cinema and photography major who is going to be the next Joan Rivers. E-mail her at [email protected].