One goes to the nearest convenience store or newspaper stand and one is bombarded with images of Tom and Katie, Britney Spears, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on the cover of the latest tabloid or magazine with the headline screaming out something about their marriage or their need for a rehabilitation centre or their latest religious stance. And the popularity of these magazines shows that we as a society just can’t get enough. Fascination with celebrities has impacted American culture in a number of ways and has altered our lives in minor ways which we sometimes don’t even realize.
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Every night we watch them on our television screens, and media channels make sure we know every tiny detail about their lives, from the names of their pets to their favorite shopping malls to which cologne they swear by. And we lap it up as if our lives depend on it. Today, a lot of people have become addicted to their daily dose of celebrity gossip, even if they wouldn’t want to admit it! In some twisted way, we’ve actually started to care about the most mundane details of lives so different from our own. Maybe we care because their lives are so much more glamorous than ours: from their red carpet premieres to their celebrity-studded parties: haven’t we all become a little too star-struck?
Another way celebrity fascination has altered the make-up of our lives is through the various tabloid shows dedicated to the purpose of bringing their lives to our living rooms and helping us live vicariously through them. Their lives are filled with decadence, spontaneity, materialism, glamour, and supposedly a whole lot of fun. For us, this is nothing less than the contemporary version of a fairytale that makes for such a great getaway from our normal, everyday lives. Maybe it is the allure of their lives, or the lack of excitement and enjoyment in ours, which ensures that we stay gravitated towards the latest happenings in the lives of these stars.
This obsession with the personal lives of celebrities and our general adoration of them is not a new phenomenon. In fact, as a society we should have become quite accustomed to and bored with celebrities by now. Since a very long time now, we have given our celebrities the status of royalty, and corporations have realized how smitten we are and have been using them as endorsers for products. They sell everything from makeup to cars to perfumes to jeans to just about everything under the sky. Be it fast food or diet pills, one just needs to switch on the television and see a famous face excitedly extolling the virtues and encouraging us to try the product. The rapid popularity of celebrity endorsements and the consequent success of this as a marketing tool is just reflective of how deeply celebrity fascination has affected American culture.
Not just this, but our passion for them is unbound by common sense or rationality. When Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston broke up, there were people in all parts of the world, who sympathized with Jennifer and believed Angelina Jolie to be quite a man-stealer! Such is the depth of adoration that we fail to see that the media portrays what it wants to portray, and we on the outside can really have no inkling of what goes on between two individuals in their personal lives. Such rationale didn’t stop anyone from picking a side and jumping on the bandwagon to either denounce Pitt/Jolie or give their kudos to the latest power couple in town. We have heated discussions about which couple was better-suited and almost as if we have a vested interest in their relationships and lives: It wouldn’t be surprising if most women out there have discussed whether Tom Cruise should have stayed with Nicole Kidman or if he made a better husband with Katie Holmes. This is again one of the many effects of our general fascination with celebrities.
Another effect of the so-called celebrity culture is that people have started taking solace in eating disorders, break-ups, parties and other celebrity events at the cost of forgetting about the real issues which plague us today. As long as our favorite TV channel and magazine is providing us with the latest gossip about the lives of the rich and famous, we’d rather not think of inconvenient truths such as the War or any other socio-economic concerns of present times.
Entertainment specials, magazines and channels are all ensuring that we don’t get enough of the larger-than-life personas of a minute percentage of the entire world’s population. And we are avid fans: it started as innocent public curiosity and today, has spiraled way out of control as the demand for celebrity gossip has made the paparazzi culture an actually dangerous phenomenon. The technological environment has further ensured that no aspect of their lives goes unnoticed as photographs, interviews and sound bites are recorded whether celebrities are at a party, in the park or at the grocery store. Only time will tell whether we will tire of this ‘celebrity culture’ soon or simply get even more addicted to it and what impact this has on our culture in the long term.