Is Celebrity Obsession Just Another Way Americans Detach From Their Lives?


I’m still amazed at all the attention, and awful criticism, actress Renee Zellweger got last week when seemingly every entertainment news source went bat crazy over the difference in her look and her alleged plastic surgery.

And she isn’t the only one. How many stories have we read about every single thing Kim Kardashian does? Or what the latest debate is about her younger sister Kylie Jenner and whether she is too young to wear or do something? I'd venture to say most Americans know more about the Kardashians than they do the Obamas. Just let that, and what that says about our country, sink in for a moment.

We have an absolute obsession with celebrities in our country. If Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt step outside anywhere in the world, the American media will cover it. Beyonce and Jay-Z do anything at all, it is news. The list of stars that the public obsesses over goes on and on. I am not even fully sure why we have this obsession. Are we looking for people to emulate or fantasize about? Or perhaps, someone to criticize and feel superior to, as some have claimed. You need look no further than most reality shows to validate the argument that our obsession is actually about a desire to want to see people fail so we can feel better about ourselves. So what seems like adoration and love is really about bitter jealousy and envy.

Oprah, another person the public can’t seem to get enough of, actually once said she has a term for this, she calls it "fallen celebrity syndrome,” which refers to when the public puts people up on a pedestal so they can then knock them down. In one interview with Elizabeth Lesser, author and the cofounder of the Omega Institute, Lesser said this about the public’s seeming delight in reading about and seeing celebrities fall and fail:

When a celebrity falls, we take some sort of comfort in it because it proves… everyone suffers in life. These celebrities who we have pumped up to being something they’re not, and we begin to lose touch with what life is really about...So when we think oh they have the life, they have everything we want, something in us knows that’s not true. When they fall, it's like, 'See? My life is important too.'

Of course, celebrity worship is nothing new. Stars of old were worshipped as well. But because of our far reaching media and glut of entertainment and other news outlets, we just have a lot more opportunities to feed that obsession. In fact, we often find out down-right strange when someone doesn't know celebrity gossip. We take it as a given that most people know that Justin Bieber dated Selena Gomez and that Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds are expecting a child.

I know celebs feed the fascination and I'm not saying they are victims by any means. But it is not their side of the equation that interests me as the mass celebrity consumption. This obsession with stars coupled with the sense of isolation that many feel, ironically thanks to the Internet and the increasing lack of face-to-face human interaction, is leading to a society that is fast losing touch with what’s real and important.

Real life is just becoming less and less entertaining to people, so they are engulfing themselves in alternative worlds, fantasy worlds, online worlds. I can’t help but wonder where this will all end up.

Photo credit: WikiCommons


Popular Video