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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hot or Not - Society's obsession with celebrities

What is it that makes some people so interested in the lives of the rich and famous? I must admit that I too find myself clicking on a link just so that I can see what Lyndsey Lohan said about her time in rehab. I am also, however, aware of the fact that this curiosity is ridiculous.
Celebrities are just people, right? They don’t come from a distant planet called “Beauty Divine” and behold mystical powers and immortal souls. Celebrity. The thesaurus gives alternatives such as ‘famous person’ (indeed, they are just people), ‘personality’ and even ‘star’.  Fame comes when one is recognised for ones talent; well at least it should be. Now a days someone can be famous for appearing on television just by being themselves and willing to take a shower while millions of viewers watch. No talent required. But as soon as someone is put onto that box we call a television, something about how we perceive them shifts. They are no longer ‘ordinary’, they become ‘extraordinary’.
Personality. The first word that comes to mind is a television personality. Oprah Windfrey, Noleen M, Dr. Phil, Ricky Gervaise and Michael Mole. These are just a few people who are television personalities. Their personalities shine through on television therefore their talent is seen by millions and they become a household name in millions of homes around the world. I am sure that everyone at some point has had a conversation with a friend a bout a problem they are having and the friend immediately responds, “Well, Dr. Phil says...” I have quoted Oprah on numerous occasions and I’m sure I will again. Television personalities become part of our lives.
I was a Montessori Pre-School teacher for 4 years and I know that I was good at my job. I was a teaching personality; my personality shone through in my teaching. I was as good at that job as Noleen is at hers, but I wonder who will get sponsored to start they own fashion label? Not me, but what will increase my chances of having my own clothing line is if I was filmed doing my teaching job and millions of people watched me every day. Teaching is a profession where adequate recognition and reward is almost impossible yet we play one of the most important roles in society. Can society live without celebrities? Yes. Can society live without teachers? No.
Star. The thesaurus doesn’t give one alternative which suggests that a star is something we find in space. ‘Celebrity’ is the first word given. How can we equate a star; a beautiful, mesmerising, intriguing, burning ball of gas to a person who appears on television pretending to be someone else? I can acknowledge the unquestionable talent of some actors and the inspiration and valuable information given out by some television personalities but what I cannot accept is the enormity of the wealth and adoration that they receive.
Adoration, love, esteem, honour, idolize. I look at these words and I see my parents, my daughter; I see people who have had a profound impact on my life. There is not one celebrity that comes to mind yet these are the words attached to so many actors, singers, television personalities and even reality television ‘stars’. These are words that can only be associated with someone you truly know. I can respect an actor for the flawless job they did in a movie but I can never love them. I can look up to them and see the struggles they have gone through in order to get where they are now but I cannot idolize them because the characteristics I will be idolizing would be based on assumptions.
What society adores, loves and idolizes about celebrities is their ‘perfection’. Their perfect bodies, their perfect skin, their stylish clothes, their fancy cars and their perfect lives. Perfection. ‘Excellence’ is the first alternative given by the thesaurus. There is a message going out into society that in order to excel, in order to be acknowledged, we need to be perfect. The other message (the one that isn’t going out as often) is that no one is perfect; we can only strive to be perfectly ourselves.
So, on one had society knows that no one is perfect and on the other hand we believe that only beauty and perfection results in acknowledgment. It seems like not only do we admire our celebrities but we resent them just as much. Society, therefore, thrives on any information which suggests that our idols, our celebrities are in fact not perfect. Hence the obsession with tabloid magazines and programmes.  We adore them, we worship them, but give us one opportunity to see them as human beings (picking their noses, adjusting their underwear, falling down, getting drunk, getting divorced, not wearing make up) and we can’t resist the temptation.
A celebrity’s sole purpose is to make us feel better about ourselves and the world. Their beauty and success make us feel hopeful and inspired and their flaws and humanness make us feel like maybe we too can achieve what they have.
Hot or not? I would say ‘not’. Anything that is based on an assumption about someone else is not hot (it’s not even cool). Why find inspiration, motivation and encouragement from complete strangers when family and friends (and even yourself) have the ability to bring out your excellence? What is hot? Embracing how perfectly unique and human you are and letting go of the dream that celebrity ‘perfection’ is in fact something worth achieving.