What is a Has-Been?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2019
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A has-been is someone who once enjoyed fame and popularity, but does so no longer. There are a wide variety of situations which can cause someone to become a has-been, ranging from losing the physical traits necessary for popularity in image-based industries like the world of film to committing an egregious act which leads to widespread social rejection. A has-been's life can be quite depressing, as he or she may be tempted to relive glory days which cannot be recovered.

Celebrities and politicians are most at risk of becoming has-beens, due to the high profile lives that they lead. When people are constantly under the scrutiny of media and fans, it can be increasingly easy to slip up, turning a sometimes successful and fruitful career into a thing of the past. A has-been is viewed as no longer interesting, popular, successful, or valuable in society, and he or she may come to internalize these ideas, experiencing depression as a result.

The term “has-been” is also used to describe people who experienced popularity early, and then lost it. People who are extremely popular in high school or college, for example, sometimes become has-beens later in life, as the people around them grow and mature, becoming interested in the talents and abilities of others. Such has-beens are sometimes used as fodder for novels, becoming figures of mockery as they struggle to cope with their newfound lack of popularity or relevance.


For people who make their living on the basis of image, such as models and film stars, the risk of becoming a has-been is very real. It can be difficult to turn an image-based career into something more stable and long term, as many actors and models are viewed simply as pretty faces. Actors might try to branch out into producing and filmmaking, while models may experiment with their own fashion lines and branded consumer goods in the hopes of capitalizing on their names long enough to branch out into careers based on something other than their physical appearance.

Politicians can also struggle with the specter of becoming a has-been. Mistakes made early in life often come back to haunt people over the course of a political career, especially when they become famous, because every possible attempt will be made to dredge such information out of the past. If a politician comes to be viewed as untrustworthy or lacking in moral fiber, his or her career is essentially over.


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Post 2

This pretty much describes me. I was popular in high school but due to very bad luck in college I ran and hid. I had the best high school experience ever but the worse college life imaginable. I feel betrayed. All that hard work and sacrifice since freshman year to get into the school of choice, and this had to happen?

To this very day I am struggling to overcome my problems and am yearning that one day I can come out again. It's been five years since misfortune hit me. I miss everything that I was. I miss my friends. I miss that great person I used to be. I'm still fighting, and I hope I will win. Five years is a long time. I miss my friends so so much. Please pray for my success.

Post 1

Other terms to describe such individuals are “washed up” or “flash in the pan.” When I think about actors and politicians, I actually feel kind of sorry for them.

They live on image. Yet no matter how successful they are, they will eventually be replaced; those actor’s faces will wrinkle, those votes will no longer be there to keep the politician in office. Then they will be looked at nostalgically.

It will only be said that this has been was once an important person whose life meant something. That has to hit you where it hurts.

It’s no wonder many of these people go into drugs and alcohol, after they lose their fifteen minutes of fame, because they can no longer reclaim the past. I say it’s better to be nobody in the world’s eyes, and be somebody to people closest to you.

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