There are many reasons why we are preoccupied with celebrities’ lives. Celebrities are the modern day Greek and Roman gods. They are worshipped by us mere mortals as the overlords of the silver screen, or rather surround sound 3D Blue Ray 55” screen. All the better to see them with.
People love celebrities because they want to see themselves in these untouchable glamourous actresses and punkish lead singers of bands. They want to feel connected to these people (and their fans) so as to feel part of a larger whole, a family almost. An artificial replacement for the love we crave. It is human to want to adore, to idolise and to respect.
But it is also human to want that too, and if celebrities are how we give it, then fame is the way we will get it. Everyone wants to be famous now. A recent poll of sixteen year olds found that 54% wanted to be famous when they were older, compared to 1% wanting to work in an office. And fame seems achievable nowadays, through the rise of social media. However, when your happiness is directly connected to the number of likes on your latest Instagram post, the dangers of celebrity culture become apparent.
The problem is that it begins to instil a sense of immortality in the chosen ones. America in particular has had a long history of hiring the latest male in vogue as their leader of the free world. From Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, celebrity means a lot when it comes to politics. Are we really so surprised that Kanye West wants to be President?
There is also the uncomfortable trend of celebrities tending to get away with murder, sometimes literally. 50 Cent was given a six-month sentence for a nine-year offence for selling drugs. Mel Gibson has faced simply fines and slaps on the wrist after repeatedly drinking and driving. And America’s strict immigration regulations were ignored for the case of Michael J Fox who came from Canada to America without a Visa. Even the recent allegations of Johnny Depp’s domestic abuse have been scorned the world over. The reason? We forgive them.
However, this is all not to say that celebrity culture is an inherently bad thing. It isn’t. In fact, it can do a lot of good. Celebrities themselves are able, through their money and influence, to do some pretty incredible things. Countless stars have donated millions to various charities across the world. Neil Patrick Harris gave up Thanksgiving to serve food to the homeless. Robert Downey Jr delivered an Iron-Man style bionic arm to a disabled kid. And Russell Brand can’t stop himself from giving help to any and every homeless person he meets.
That is what celebrity culture should be about. Using their fame to achieve real good in the world. The leading authority of this would be the highest paid actress in Hollywood Angelina Jolie, famous for her humanitarian work and international adoptions. Her recent split from Brad Pitt has been sad of course, but it also reminds us of the important fact, the secret to why we do love celebrities so much – from the heart-breaking failure of a broken marriage to the tiniest of Jennifer Lawrence’s stumbles on the red carpet – they mess up too. They are human. Just like us.
Image credit: Gage Skidmore