Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pictures of Your Favourite Celebrity

The phenomenon of "celebrity gossip" reminds me of the lives of Greek Gods. (Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, Hades, Athena, Apollo, Ares, Poseidon and more!). The Greek Gods were in a constant state of scandal -lying, backstabbing, posing as wildlife to have affairs,

You didn't hear? Zeus appeared as a bull and impregnated a mortal. I know. Now there's another wacky demi-god. Better than that swan sh*t he pulled on Leda.

Greek Gods would have meltdowns, rebel against their parents, and fight it out. This all made for quality storytelling and, for scholars, explained Earth's topography.

I can think of thousands of reasons to ridicule celebrity gossipers. Personally, I think it's sort of a sad, candy religion nestled between the tragic acts of stalking and living vicariously through one's children. My Great Great Grand, I do not claim that celebrity worship was invented in my lifetime but I do believe I have seen the rise of celebrity concentrated media. There is a section in every major newspaper that updates what popular entertainers are doing in their daily lives. Minor legal offenses are always reported, relationship status is a close second. Amazingly, if nothing of note has happened, wild speculation is used as news. It is common for these reports to be accompanied by pictures of female performers in provocative clothing.

I think confronting people for participating in these mass-stalking campaigns leaves them confused and defensive, particularly because those who enjoy celebrity gossip perceive it as a simple, moderately shameful, indulgence -like the tasty, unhealthy cuisine of consumer culture. Yet fancy arguments and condescending glares do not undo the truth: people who track celebrities enjoy it. Their pleasure is real. Encouraging people to feel guilt or angry resistance is not insight. It's more interesting to ask everyone to consider the history of our fascination with the lives of others. What's going on in our minds. Why do humans crave gossip?

1. Celebrities as shields. We live in fear of our own insecurities being revealed. We fear judgment so we are quick to judge. We wear celebrities as masks to disguise our inner thoughts. If I ridicule a celebrity's clothing with some friends we can establish what is fashionable with minimal risk to our ourselves.

2. Celebrities as sacrificial lambs. Our mistakes, our humiliations can only be covered up by someone else's greater embarrassment. In the playground of life we will be bullied for the tear in the crotch of our pants unless we point out that the other kid peed himself. The Germans have a word, schadenfreude, pleasure from the misfortune of others.

3. Celebrities as nirvana. People desire fame. It is as infectious as the spirit that caused generations to sign up to fight in the Great European wars. Celebrities offer a fantasy world for people to vaguely work toward. Those who have touched fame have a quasi-spiritual aura. I find people are more bold about their fantasies now. They casually offer which celebrities would be their friends, where they would live, what a day would be like. This is the waking afterlife. Visions of future paradise that break down under scrutiny.

As a child on a swing in my backyard I would pretend I was being interviewed by David Letterman. He is a man who makes jokes while he talks to celebrities.


lfar said...

I'd definitely say I'm a number 3. With a touch of schadenfreude.

I like this line "Their pleasure is real. Encouraging people to feel guilt or angry resistance is not insight."

Liz said...

I've asked people in my life that are interested in celebrity gossip not to tell me the things that they learn. It's tough, because it's a popular topic at the workplace.
The lives of celebrities are completely unrelated to the type of life I aim to craft for myself, and I think that avoiding most of the news helps keep me at work on my own reality.

lfar said...

Okay. People who love sports. Can they adore the athletes? I have a picture of Chrissie Wellington hanging in my room because she inspires me to be the best athlete I can. http://youtube.com/watch?v=xsSrXL6feVs

If there was a website that posted candid pictures of her eating lunch or going for a training run? You bet I would visit it daily.