Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Monday, February 22, 2016
The Icarus Complex
"The Flight of Icarus" by Jacob Peter Gowy
The massive ego of the celebrity is a kind of deformity. You
might call it a malignant ego to the extent that it's like a virulent cancer, constantly metastasizing to the point of self-consummation. That’s why many
celebrities are like supernovae, massive explosions which precede the death of
the star. The psychoanalyst Henry Murray coined the term “Icarus Complex” to
describe this kind of individual. James
Dean was one star who exemplified a phenomenon that’s usually the
province of astrophysics. Marlon Brando, Orson Welles, Janis Joplin, and more
recently Charlie Sheen are all examples of this kind of narcissistic
grandiosity which provides the explosive energy accounting for both the rise and fall of these shooting bodies. Politicians, of course, are celebrities and they too can exemplify
the same traits as rock and movie stars. However, it tends to be the
extremists, the outliers who are catapulted to the top by circumstances that
most evidence this trait. Hitler, Idi Amin, Papa Doc
Duvalier, Augusto Pinochet and Stalin are historical examples of political
celebrities who flared up and then burned out. The famous governor of
Louisiana, Huey Long, who was the subject of Robert Penn Warren’s novel All the King’s Men,is one of the most
famous examples of the celebrity ego within the pantheon of American politics.
Will Donald Trump, another brazen political cowboy with a seemingly indomitable
populist appeal, be the next light to shine brightly before taking a
precipitous fall and disappearing from the cosmos (or night life) for ever? Poor Eliot Spitzer
(who was recently the subject of an investigation into his possible assault of a 25 year old Russian woman at the Plaza, "Police Investigating Claim Eliot Spitzer Choked Woman in Plaza Hotel," NYT, 2/15/16) has become one shooting star with a
seemingly insatiable appetite to fall to ever greater depths of infamy. “The
mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” said Thoreau. But they’re like the
millions of workaday stars that form constellations--like
The Big Dipper-- which beautify the evening sky.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.