A Plea to End Celebrity Obsession

30 06 2009

Kara Bertrand
Humber College Student
Written: October 2007

This article was written for a magazine class at Humber College. Please note this was my first attempt at opinion writing.

They’re everywhere: on the TV; on the internet; on the radio; and if you’re in the right place at the right time, at the corner café. The best of the worst and the worst of the best are captured on video, picture and sound byte. The majority of its audience is gripped by the lives of the rich and famous. And it’s lasted long enough.

Keeping up to date with the recent celebrity gossip is a pastime for many people around the world, and it can be an entertaining way of interacting with other people. However, when the obsession is taken to the extreme, the results are more often than not damaging.

Gossip websites such as perezhilton.com feed the obsession machine, making it easier for the gossip monster to grow. Magazines and tabloids such as People, In Touch, Hello, and US Weekly supplement TV shows like Access Hollywood, Extra and Entertainment Tonight. Paparazzi capture the rich and famous dressed up for a gala or awards show, or in sweats taking their dog for a walk. They are seen as glamorous, or to the surprise of readers and viewers, seen as ordinary people just like everyone else.

The problems arise when the obsession is taken too far, when a person becomes consumed with finding out everything they can about a celebrity. They will check websites every five minutes, essentially live their own life through the celebrity, and often forget to live life in reality. Depression and low self esteem may arise when personal accomplishments seem to dwindle in comparison to the favoured celebrity’s accomplishments. Not only will they see themselves as inferior, but also those around them. Friendships may fail because of comparisons to stars, because who can be as fun as Lindsay Lohan must be at a club? The obsession may go as far as wanting to become the celebrity – such is the example of the MTV reality show I Want a Famous Face.

“By dint of extensive plastic surgery, ordinary people are made to look more like their famous heroes,” said Carlin Flora in the article entitled ‘Seeing by Starlight: Celebrity Obsession’ published in the July/Aug. 2004 issue of Psychology Today. Drastically changing their appearance to resemble a star is an extreme example of celebrity obsession.

The blunt truth is that not all stars are good role models and idolizing the bad role models is never a good idea. Take poor Lindsay Lohan for example. She’s been in and out of rehab, been caught drinking and driving and essentially made a mess of her life. Britney Spears is also a recent train-wreck, losing custody of her children to ex-hubby Kevin Federline, and erroneously shaving her head. These two stars, however, were both made famous early on, and Britney, in particular, was made a sex object at 16. The effects of stardom on a young actress or singer have been seen time and time again, and these two women are no exception.

It may be time to tell the other side of the argument, to tell of how following celebrity lives may be helpful. A young girl can usually not go wrong when she idolizes an actress or musician who emanates strong values and healthy life choices. Girls may also look up to stars who have been through a lot and rose to the top. Oprah Winfrey is an example of one of these stars.

Flora cited Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey in saying, “celebrities motivate us to make it. Oprah Winfrey suffered through poverty, sexual abuse and racial discrimination to become the wealthiest woman in media. Lance Armstrong survived advanced testicular cancer and went on to win the Tour de France five times.” Celebrities can be a healthy and positive influence in life, especially those who help others, as Angelina Jolie has done in recent years. Colette Bouchez expanded on this in her article entitled ‘A New Age of Celebrity Worship’ in the WebMD section of CBSnews.com in March 2006. “They can be very helpful in terms of increasing awareness and decreasing stigma about many problems.”

While these points are valid and may aid to the other side of the argument, the main problem is that there are more examples of celebrities doing reckless things with their lives, and these mistakes are put on display for all to see. They promote drug use, promiscuous sex, drinking and driving, and a reckless disregard for their own self-respect and dignity. None of these qualities should be idealized or promoted through the media. Many people have a sick fascination when dishing about celebrities. The sad reality is that it may also seem more important to these people to know what the latest celebrity is doing than it is to know who won the recent political election.

One point has yet to be brought up in this discussion: stalking. This is the inexplicable need to be as close as possible to a celebrity, often tracking the daily routine of their idol to the point of lurking outside their Hollywood window, waiting for any sign of movement. There is a line with celebrity obsession, and these people crossed it a long time ago.

Next time the latest gossip about Lindsay, Britney or Paris comes on the TV or internet, do yourself a favour: look away! It will be better for your health, for the celebrity’s health, and for the health of future generations.