Vicarious Living and 'A Short History of Celebrity'

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Snooki did not invent celebrity – and chances are she won't break it either.

That's according to Professor Fred Inglis, author of "A Short History of Celebrity." Inglis is a cultural historian, and he takes the long view on our fascination with the likes of Tiger Woods, Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie. Over the past 200 years, says Inglis, it has become easier and easier to live vicariously. 

Inglis has some ideas about how that happened. He names the obvious culprits, like stage lighting and the printing press (not to mention Photoshop and blogs), but also highlights some surprising contributors, like teeming cities and romantic poetry. But things get most interesting when he talks about why – why do we elect these few to tell us how to look, how to act and even how to feel? And what does the changing culture of celebrity say about the changing culture of... Us? 

(and no, we don't mean Us Magazine.)