Emily Dickinson’s poem “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” is a short and simple poem, but holds a significant message that still resonates today. In the poem, Dickinson highlights the joys of being a “nobody!” and “how dreary” it is “to be — somebody!”. This poem has been interpreted as being about fame — or the rejection of what fame brings. Once you are out in the spotlight — you are famous, you are a “somebody” — you are “public”, “like a Frog”. This metaphor suggests something about the narcissism and the loss of self that occurs as a result of fame. One turns into a “frog” that mindlessly croaks, preoccupied with drawing attention from other people. In the modern world, fame and status are still held in high regards and celebrity culture is at its peak. The celebrities we love to judge, hate and admire are those who have transformed from “nobodies” into “somebodies”. Interestingly, it is quite evident that perhaps these celebrities feel the same way that Dickinson did. Many well known figures of American pop culture has expressed the same sentiments in their creative products as Dickinson, just in a different genre. Let’s take a look at some of America’s most popular mainstream singers: Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Eminem, Lady Gaga. All of these musical artists have expressed the struggle with being famous — they have all paid the price of fame. A few examples of lyrics are as follows — Taylor Swift sings in her 2012 song “The Lucky One”:
Now it’s big black cars, and Riviera views / And your lover in the foyer doesn’t even know you / And your secrets end up splashed on the news front page. / And they tell you that you’re lucky. /But you’re so confused, / Cause you don’t feel pretty, you just feel used. / […] Another name goes up in lights. You wonder if you’ll make it out alive.
And Britney Spears sings in the 2007 song “Piece of Me”:
I'm Miss American Dream since I was 17/ Don't matter if I step on the scene/ Or sneak away to the Philippines/ They still gon' put pictures of my derriere in the magazine/ You want a piece of me?
These songs are just two of the many songs that overtly discuss the pitfalls of being famous. It is truly not as glamorous as it may seem. This goes to show that Dickinson’s idea of fame vs. anonymity is still prominent — perhaps even more prominent in modern day, with the great emphasis American society puts on celebrity culture. The question that remains is — If fame has such a negative side to it, why do we as a culture still value fame and status so much?