The cult of the celebrity

As I was riding my bike through the streets of Paris one night a few weeks ago, my path was interrupted by a large group of people spilling out onto the street. Further inspection revealed metal barriers and paparazzi style cameras. Ah, must be a celebrity.

The first time I saw a group of people waiting just to “see” a celebrity was in Los Angeles. Whoever the poor person was was in a boutique shopping, whilst outside his or her dedicated minions, along with a whole bunch of paparazzi, waited patiently. I didn’t bother sticking around to find out who it was. I mean, what did anyone stand to gain from the situation?

The “celebrity” most likely felt harassed by being followed on even the simplest of shopping trips, whilst the people who were waiting for him/her… well, I just couldn’t figure out their motives. Could they claim any kind of real satisfaction from standing around for hours just for the reward of possibly laying eyes on someone… yes, just another human being like you and me… as they passed by?

But, what did I expect? I was in LA after all. Fast forward a few years and the same scene playing out in front of me in Paris, although this time to catch people leaving a fashion week event, left me with similar questions. But on a grander scale.

The cult of the celebrity, it seems, is a worldwide phenomenon. And I personally find it is very disturbing. I mean, don’t we have anything better to think about, people? In these days of mass, instantaneous global communication, is celebrity gossip really the kind of news that we want to be shouting across the globe?

Miranda and Orlando (notice how we’re so familiar with the lives of celebrities that they don’t even need last names anymore?) broke up. Um, Ok. Kinda sad for them, and for their child. But at the same time… who cares? These are people we don’t know. I therefore find it somewhat bizarre that so many people manage to have some kind of vested interest in their lives.

Gazza and his wife Shazza from Ordinaryville broke up too. Why aren’t we plastering their story all over the news? Simple. Because they are not “beautiful” and “glamorous” and “famous”. They are not “celebrities”.

But what constitutes fame these days, anyway? Have these people really done anything so wonderful as to merit all this attention? It seems as though once upon a time you had to make a valuable contribution to society to be considered famous. These days you go on a television show for wannabe famous people parading around making nuisances of themselves and hey presto, instant “career”… you somehow win the right to make a living of parading around and making even more of a nuisance of yourself.

Which is exactly, as it turns out, what everyone was waiting for the other night in Paris. A French reality TV “star” called Nabila whose fame skyrocketed thanks to a now infamous comment she made likening girls who don’t have shampoo with them when they travel to girls who don’t have hair. What the? France, I would lose all respect for you… except that, as I said before, it’s the same almost everywhere. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. And it’s scary.

Why scary? Because I think it’s bad for the rest of us “mere mortals”. These perfect looking beings to whom we bestow god status, have make-up artists and hair stylists who work on them for hours before they can even consider turning up to an engagement. The “art” of air brushing is rife in the magazine and advertising industries. The images of these gods that we find plastered all over the media everyday, is not even real.

We have a young generation, particularly of girls, that is being brought up surrounded by images of what a beauty looks like that are not attainable by the vast majority of the population. We are worshipping something that doesn’t actually exist, or at least not without the help of a computer or a scalpel. And our youngsters are coming to accept this this as normal. There is something very wrong with this picture.

So how do we stop it? Stop the publication of trash magazines and fire all the media? Send all advertising execs on permanent gardening leave? Not going to happen. Because somewhere out there, there are millions and millions of people buying this rubbish. Us, the mere mortals, are making not only the gods, but the whole media circus, seriously rich by buying into this cult.

The only thing for it is for each of us individually to take a step back and consider if the cult of the celebrity is a religion we want to buy into. Even if we aren’t regular devotees to the cult, just taking the occasional dabble from time to time, the fact of the matter is that we are contributing to a bigger phenomenon that has worrying implications for our children.

I’m not knocking the idea of society wanting role models. It’s the way if the world since time immemorial. What I am saying is that we should stop supporting the mindless rubbish that our media is wont to feed us and start questioning whether the people who are being put forth to us as heros are really worthy of our time. The sooner we start highlighting and recognising the efforts the people who are truly striving to make a difference in our world, and stop caring about those whose only real contribution are some pretty air-brushed photos and a few air-headed comments to go with them, the better.

Celebrity spotting

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3 thoughts on “The cult of the celebrity

  1. I’m glad I’m not famous; I wouldn’t like to be hounded whenever I went out in public. Not worth it.

    Oprah Winfrey once said that the difference between being famous and not being famous is the number of people that know you. I just hope that these famous people have someone in their lives to keep them grounded.

  2. I wonder how famous people deal with the constant attention all the time. I can’t imagine being famous – a stranger stopping me in the streets to ask for directions freaks me out already (paranoid Asian I am).

    Yes, there are lots of people making nuisances themselves on television and unfortunately people are lapping it all up. Don’t know why, but perhaps many of us want a laugh and don’t want to take life too seriously and in turn prompts more people to act silly, sort of like a vicious cycle.

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