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In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.—Andy Warhol, predicting YouTube with a surprising degree of accuracy.
They love you when you're on all the covers... When you're not, then they love another...
So, it looks like it's just going to be another one of those normal regular old days when, all of a sudden, something exciting happens! One character does something unusual enough that there's a sudden media spotlight on them- there's all this attention headed their way and they can't get enough of it!
...Until, inevitably, the media gets bored and moves onto some other bizarre story. Ah well. At least you had your fifteen minutes. Has a high chance of leading to An Aesop about being satisfied with what you have, and not to be too bummed when everybody gets bored by your one-note gag.
Note that what activity, exactly, causes the Fifteen Minutes of Fame differs depending on the portrayal. More dramatic works will use a somewhat plausible act of heroism to get the point across--say, rescuing someone from a fire, or from drowning. This will be done to get a point across via Character Development. In comedy, the act will be something unusual but ultimately ridiculous. Like eating a thousand scoops of ice cream, or shaking the hand of a celebrity. Here, the point will often be to make jokes at the expense of the media.
A character trying to keep a low profile will often let another soak in the fifteen minutes, for fear of being discovered.
See A Day in the Limelight for this trope in the meta-sense. Often leads to Acquired Situational Narcissism. Compare A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted, where it is money rather than popularity that comes and goes.
Anime and Manga
- Volume #11 of School Rumble. Lala Gonzales accidentally adopts a new, very distinctive temporary look, then displays her fighting ability in Shibuya.She becomes "Queen of Shibuya", with girls aping her odd style, and for a week becomes a poster girl for cosmetics and the like. But when her CD single flops, Lala returns to her normal exchange student life.
- One of the stories in the movie The Ten had a guy get stuck in the ground after a skydiving accident and wrest fifteen minutes of fame and a short-lived sitcom out of it ... until the media got bored with the story.
- Happens in Audrey Wait when Audrey's ex-boyfriend writes a hit song about his break-up with her.
Live Action TV
- In The Secret World of Alex Mack, Alex and one of her friends runs across a kid trapped under a giant pipe. Her friend tries to lift it and Alex uses her powers to make it seem like he does in order to save the kid. The kid turns out to be the governor's son- which promptly puts the spotlight (and, consequently, suspicion from the main villain) on this kid who somehow manages to lift a pipe that weighs hundreds of kilograms.
- In Heroes, after Claire rescues a man from a fire early on, she lets Jackie lie about being the one who did it (all anyone saw was that the rescuer was wearing a cheerleader uniform), since she herself is mortified about the existence of her superpowers.
- This happens to Sally on 3rd Rock from the Sun after she punches out Mark Hamill in a restaurant. When Mary tells a jealous Dick that this is Sally's "fifteen minutes of fame", he interprets it literally and is maddened by her "fifteen minutes" lasting considerably longer than that. It ends after a few days, however, causing Sally to start acting like a White Dwarf Starlet.
- Natalie on Monk gets a ridiculous amount of fame from a brief stint as a lottery girl.
- The crew in Leverage does this to their mark deliberately in the aptly named episode "The Fifteen Minutes Job".
- Married... with Children: Jefferson made a commercial and his wife didn't like the attention he got from that, his friends tried to assure her it'd be just his fifteen minutes of fame.
- Sugar Ray referenced the phrase by naming their second album 14:59.
- Kraftwerk has a song named exactly this
- In Anyone Can Whistle, the mayoress of a town and her cronies set up a "miracle" to attract pilgrims and boost the town's economy. Their plan works at first, but is complicated by a number of things. The mayoress gets it straightened out just in time to see all the pilgrims (and a couple of her cronies) rushing off to the next town over, where a new "miracle" has occurred.
- Also used in how quickly the people in the town turn from Hapgood, whose praises they were literally singing, once they heard that he was responsible for the "miracle" running dry.
- A common plot device on The Simpsons. To wit:
- Homer bowls a perfect game. The excitement the townspeople have over this is lampshaded when Brockman notes how pathetic the town must be for him to be covering a story like this.
- Apu and Manjula have octuplets, which briefly results in them getting copious baby supplies from well-wishes, but leaves them in a dreadful situation once the reporters move on to a story about a couple who has nonuplets. ("Nine babies? That's barbaric!")
- Bart accidentally destroys a set while on the Krusty the Klown show, and reflexively says "I didn't do it" to the audience. They find it incredibly amusing, and it turns into a Catch Phrase.
- Not to mention he got promoted from being Krusty's off-screen "gofer" to having an entire sketch on the show dedicated to him.
- Men in Black: Agent X called for a tv crew from his home planet so they'd make him the star of their show. Being unable to get rid of them, Zed punished X by offering a chance to have K instead of X as the star, which they quickly accepted. As J pointed out, fame was so fickle X didn't even had fifteen minutes of it.