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Celebrity Culture: The Worldwide Obsession

What Fuels Our Fascination With Celebrities?


Celebrities

What do you see when you walk through the checkout aisle at any grocery store? You are bombarded with tabloid magazine upon tabloid magazine with the face of a Kardashian plastered on the front cover. Although we would like to think that we have the willpower to turn our heads as we impatiently wait for the cashier to finally reach us in line, the truth of the matter is that some people give in to their curiosity and pick up the occasional Us Weekly or People magazine. What is it that draws us to celebrities and makes us incapable of completely ignoring them?

“Many members of the general American public are intrigued by the lives of celebrities for a variety of reasons,” said Mary Harris, public relations professor. “The media, at times, glorifies the rise and fall of famous individuals, including actors, singers, reality television personalities, athletes, politicians, and talk show hosts. Average citizens may be intrigued by the idea of the unique and almost unrealistic lifestyles of some of these celebrities.”

 Oftentimes, people look to celebrities to be the trendsetters. Although the Oscars are meant to be an evening to honor the great works in the film industry, most of us only watch the red carpet to see what Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Lopez is wearing.

Those who make it through the ceremony itself are more interested in which celebrity did a wardrobe change, who is making his or her first public outing with a new significant other or which celebrity the host is going to offend first.

Daniel Kruger, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, believes that when people know what is going on with the rich and famous, they can better their social lives by knowing what is going on in various social circles. Tabloid photographs of Hollywood starlets leaving certain clubs at all hours of the night tell the people where the social scene is and what the party trends of the moment are.

“I think our society is obsessed with celebrities because some people admire and envy celebrities’ lives and wish to be in their shoes,” said Meredith Cahil, first-year student. “People find celebritites so appealing because they have fame, talent, and money that can sometimes seem unattainable to the average person.”

People relate to celebrities, says life coach Deborah King on her website, deborahkingcenter.com. When a celebrity behaves a certain way, we either reevaluate ourselves, or we reevaluate the way we view that particular celebrity. At times, people immerse themselves so much into celebrities that when something either good or bad happens to that particular celebrity, the individual feels affected.

For instance, the Royal Wedding was an international news story that captured audiences. Everyone wanted a glimpse of what Kate Middleton would be wearing. Morning news shows broadcasted the entire wedding from start to finish rather than showing the morning news. According to bbc.com, nearly 24 million viewers in the UK watched the Royal Wedding, while 23 million people watched in the United States. Although the wedding contributes nothing to the lives of the general public, people chose to watch every moment of the celebration. For female audiences, the idea of an ordinary girl marrying a future king and having a wedding of that magnitude draws her to watch the ceremony and envision herself as the future princess about to marry her future king.

People choose to vicariously live their lives through their favorite celebrities, and when they see the downfall of the rich and famous, it humanizes celebrities and makes people feel as if celebrities are just people who do make mistakes.

“Some people enjoy celebrity gossip because it is an escape from their own reality; others enjoy it because it makes them feel better about their own lives to watch the demise of the rich and famous,” Harris said. “Most people in America have been bombarded by consumerism, materialism, wealth, power and fame, and this has all been exemplified through the lives of celebrities, and I think people are mainly interested in this because it is something that is so different from the lifestyles of average citizens.”

In some way, the public uses celebrities as a way to connect with one another, according to King. “We often relate to celebrities more easily than to our own friends and neighbors. We no longer stop in the village square or at the communal well to connect to each other. Instead, we use celebrities to feel connected,” King said via her website deborahkingcenter.com.

Websites such as TMZ are also major contributors to the celebrity obsession. Their ability to provide people with candid photographs of celebrities, sometimes in compromising positions, draws the public to their sites even more because they create a certain level of curiosity, and the media feeds on the interest of the people. TMZ.com have nearly five million hits a day, according to deborahkingcenter.com. So, the paparazzi will continue to follow celebrities around trying to catch them doing something either embarrassing or inappropriate. The more these media outlets provide, the greater the interest becomes.

Celebrity obsessions are driven by many factors. Whether the general public views celebrity gossip as a means to escape their mundane lives, or as a way to connect with one another, the celebrity obsession in today’s society is a cycle powered by the ever growing interest of the people and the media’s ability to give the people what they want.

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