An Essay about Celebrity Worship

Unmasking Celebrity Worship: An Insightful Critique on the Absurd Standards We Set

More and more people today are addressing the absurdity of celebrity worship. And for some reason people believe that celebrities are responsible for celebrity worship, and the idea of the “impossible standard.” Many celebrities, but not all by any means, maintain a look: “perfect hair,” “flawless skin,” “unattainable bodies,” and “extravagant lifestyles,” that challenge the notions of shame and self-esteem within the general population. And while the idea of celebrity worship is monstrously absurd, it may not actually be for reasons that most seem to appropriate.

            “Celebrity,” or the state of being celebrated, is little more than the consequence of someone’s profession. Careers performing, whether that’s stage, film, music, dance, commentating, sporting, or even policy making, all have the means of creating celebrity. The general population often misreads the intention behind pursuing a passion for the fulfillment of celebrity status alone, and while in some cases that’s a symptom, it’s rarely the reason behind a persons’ desire to chase a dream. And ironically enough, that is especially true for those that maintain some of the highest status of celebrity. Where our genuine interest in the celebrity begins is in the audacity of these people to escape the instruction of conventional norms and to actively develop something more of their lives, and to do so by passionately following their bliss through and toward success. The only real difference between most celebrities and most “ordinary” people, is that they didn’t give up on their dreams. We like to believe that most celebrities had avenues toward success that the rest of us didn’t have, and in some cases: those celebrities whose families had previously paved the way and fostered their heirs to the profession, that’s true; and that’s particularly true for many politicians. However, it’s not that case for far more celebrities than you might imagine. Actors such as Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, just two very notable examples, came from average middle-class lifestyles, they weren’t grandfathered into the business, like Gwyneth Paltrow or Angelina Jolie. Most celebrities struggled while they inched forward, maintaining menial jobs while working to develop themselves and their art in their personal time. Regardless, at the end of the day, their accomplishments can still be reduced to finding the balance between passion, and what everyone else refers to as “work.”

          In the meantime, while we learn to despise and criticize celebrities for anything we can possibly think of, we still view celebrities as something greater than human. We build excitement and create occasions of going to their films, games, and other events, we are intrigued and moved by the stories they create and tell, and the feats that they might achieve. The extravagance of their lifestyles and picturesque beauty has become a part of the job because we want to see people and stories that rise above the mundane. We invented celebrity worship. Celebrity worship is not a creation of the celebrity; they are simply living the lives that we expect them to live. Most celebrities hate the fact that the general population cannot separate the dream from the job. And those celebrities that do embrace this impossible standard that we impose, only do so because they have no choice. If we really want celebrity worship to end, then we have to learn to leave it at the theatre. But we can’t, and many of us are ashamed by that, so we have found different reasons to blame the celebrity for our impotence.

          Forget about personal taste, right? Celebrities are the ultimate arbiters of fashion and developed trends. With their designer outfits, outrageous jewelry, and impeccable sense of style, their unmatched physique and appearance are what we should all strive for. Afterall, who needs individuality when we can just copy the latest trend set by our favorite celebrity? Regardless of the fact that the celebrity image and the side effects of the image is just another part of the job, a superficial and ridiculous part of the job, nevertheless, it is all still just a part of the job. We are trying now to reimagine what a celebrity should look like, and we’re starting from a place of loathing, in defiance of the reality that it was our imagination, weakness for sex, and unexplored ambitions that created the celebrity image from the beginning.

          Celebrities have the power to shape public opinion, solve global issues, and bring about world peace. Their insightful tweets and Instagram posts are the catalysts for real change. Who needs politicians or activists when we have celebrities fighting for justice from the comfort of their mansions? However, power can only be bestowed. In fact, politicians and activists share an equal amount of celebrity as Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. The difference exists only with our perception. The powerful are only powerful because we allow them to be, that’s the embodiment of democracy (argue the point all you want, at its most fundamental it’s true). Celebrities that have the power to shape public opinion have that power because we listen to them. Celebrities that aim to solve global issues lead only those of us that follow. If celebrities are strong, it’s only because we want them to have strong voices, but is that really so wrong? “With great power comes great responsibility,” Tobey Maguire taught us all that. We criticize celebrities for having money and then mock them for trying to use their money responsibly. We have elevated the celebrity to heights that have all but demanded that they share their voice; and yet we don’t actually know them, their voices, or their ideals, we know little more about them than the characters they play.

          For decades, we have expected celebrities to behave in a certain way, and then we cripple them, professionally and personally, for being exactly what we demanded them to be. We put them on a pedestal and then we set impossible standards, that they are then forced to live by. We demand them to have a voice, and then we cancel them when we don’t like what they have to say. And now we’re blaming them for our impotence, especially when it comes to holding ourselves responsible for our own wavering truths. The fact that most of us are too lazy and stupid to get to know ourselves, to pursue our own passions, and to earn the right to express a learned thought, doesn’t mean that everyone has to be. If we want to discredit someone, we damn well better earn the right to do so. And perhaps too, if for no other reason than that any one of us would expect the same from anyone else (no one knows that better than Roger Ebert). You might be surprised by the opportunities that a little effort may afford you. Instead, we send out these mass calls to arbitrarily hate people, while simultaneously praising ourselves for reminding each other to, “huh, be kind…” There exists this unreachable hypocrisy that floats around like an invisible orb attaching itself to people and then detaching, only to float off to find other hosts. Most people don’t see the orb or the effect that it’s having on our behavior. I sometimes feel like we’re living in some contemporary television reboot of They Live.

People living on social media are coming across, to me, like: “Hey, I hate celebrities, we should all hate celebrities; except for musicians, athletes, and some politicians.” and everyone is all, like, “Yeah!” (of course in my head that sounds like John Mulaney's impression of Mick Jagger). Unfortunately, no one else seems to be on my same frequency. “Hey, we should arbitrarily rank people named Chris!” "...and in such a way, that to be named “Chris,” was in itself a reasonable standard of appraisal," and I’m scrolling through, thinking, “What?” While everyone else is just like, “Yeah!” Of course, this goes well beyond the same playful jest that our contemporary comedians are desperately trying to hold on to—since comedy is also no longer an artistic expression of imagination—and so, people go on to say, “Chris Pratt is randomly ranked at the bottom of our acceptable Chris’s…” I’m chuckling to myself, because I’m thinking this is because of the movie, Wanted. And then everyone goes on to say, “we should all hate Chris Pratt!” Taken aback a little, I'm thinking, “What?” But everyone was like, “Yeah, f$&k that guy! Namaste.” Because people cannot accept a belief system, let alone the dogma of a specific one, or how another person might live their life outside of the strict, and equally dogmatic ideals of what a lot of these people consider, “social progress.” I don’t understand it. What seems so obvious to me as willful ignorance paving the way for incredibly destructive human behaviors, are now conventionally acceptable. This is all beyond ridiculous to me, and yet everyone behaves as though this behavior is a completely normal progression of our society. Beyond that, a lot of young people believe it’s a more evolved progression of society. Admittedly, I am also confused by our ability to excuse some celebrities for having money and power while criticizing others for the exact same reasons. Musicians have largely escaped our contextual wrath.

            Have you ever wondered where to find profound philosophical and political insights or life-changing advice? There are some people today who might turn to the internet—that in and of itself is pretty disconcerting—however, have you considered your favorite celebrity? They are, of course, the epitome of wisdom and enlightenment. The countless years of life experience make them the perfect candidates to guide us through the complexities of existence. The thing about life experience is that, well, you know, it’s exactly that: life experience. A great deal of our life experience comes from the opportunities to learn and grow because of the work that we do, and the interests that we have. A number of films made are based in historical fact, whether they are focused on historical events or people, and there’s a great deal of filmmaking that occurs, “on location” throughout the world. Both of which allow many celebrities insight into the world in ways that most of us, including many policy makers, don’t have. There is a wealth of life experience in those experiences. Celebrities, because of their generous salaries (which are, of course, entirely dependent on the general population’s vast contributions to their films and events), often have a great deal of time on their hands. While many of you like to imagine them sitting around being fanned by large tropical leaves or engaging in unending parties with copious amounts of drugs, booze, and sex, the fact is that they spend their time, and their resources, learning about and exploring a variety of knowledge. It’s not like they woke up one day after a year’s long bender and decided to become an ambassador of scientific or political progress. Many celebrities have explored the means and the expertise to give credence to their voices.

            I have respect for anyone who explores their passions. Most people refuse to explore themselves well enough to even discover what their passions might be, let alone to make the sacrifices required to pursue them. We too often make excuses for becoming something in life that makes us miserable. “I didn’t have the means to pursue my passion,” “…to explore my dreams,” but the sad truth is that most of us settle. When we want something with conviction, we always manage to figure out how to make it possible, because we can—every one of us is more than capable of that. Unfortunately, making excuses is just easier. We would all trade places with practically any celebrity, even after a lifetime of abhorring them. And don’t’ get me wrong, there are most assuredly some celebrities, just like any one other abhorrent human being, that have never known a certain struggle that the rest of us might, and of course, I’m not talking about them. I have written and posted articles here about meeting or getting to know certain people of fame with a degree of reverence. This article explains where my reverence comes from. I too, have and am working tirelessly to build a life for myself, and I have made a great deal of sacrifices in order to make that happen. Because, and among other reasons, I got tired of making my own excuses. And I have made excuses, inasmuch as I have also very nearly given up on my dreams. I write about celebrities because, when I have met or run into people like: Michael Keaton, Paul McCartney, Ed Harris, Willem Defoe, Cormac McCarthy, Buzz Aldrin, Yoko Ono, Sam Shepard, Lee Child, Jon Gries, George R. R. Martin, Lee Greenwood… I’m almost done, hold on, I’m just naming a few… Adam Silvera, Lewis Black, Dan Brown, Joseph Cross, Armistead Maupin, Kevin Kline… only another handful, I promise… Olivia Williams, Daniel London, Brad Zellar, Amanda Seyfried, Rachel Cook, and Colbie Caillat, the thing that intrigues me is that each of them has struggled and sacrificed and relentlessly pursued an art that allowed them to build their own lives, and in most cases from scratch, because they knew that no one else was going to do it for them. And that’s amazing!

             Now, before we disappear into the wake of our favorite celebrity, let’s take a moment to reflect on the absurdity of it all. The idea that work might reflect our passion, and the efforts that one might make in order to realize that passion. The impossible standard that we place on people who have the audacity to make something of their lives. A something that we’re equally capable of doing, however, will rarely put ourselves in a position to risk the possibility of failure. Projecting our own shortcomings onto someone who couldn’t imagine living without at least exploring their passions. For criticizing people for exploring interests that their time and resources might allow them to explore, and then the audacity to share that with anyone who might also be interested in those efforts. Celebrity worship is nothing more than our unwillingness to discover what we value about ourselves in the lives of others. Celebrity worship does feed into a culture of superficiality, however celebrities do not. Most of them challenged themselves to believe in themselves, they ripped themselves from the rules of societal expectations, contested every conventional norm, and demanded that they follow their bliss, through doubt and the possibility of failure. Efforts that most of us wouldn’t even consider, in order to build a comfortable life for ourselves. So, you know, the next time that you find yourself getting caught up in the frenzy of celebrity worship, take a step back, and remember that there is more to life than the glamourous façade of fame. Afterall, at the end of the day, celebrities are just people too.

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