• Patrick McAndrew

Our Obsession With Celebrity

It’s Not All Bad

We love watching celebrities. We love watching movies, watching TV, watching sports, seeing shows, and listening to influential people speak. Dr. Michael Levy, author of Celebrity and Entertainment Obsession: Understanding our Addiction, states that we are addicted to being entertained and, because of this, we are obsessed with those that entertain us.

If we are to parse out the psychology behind why this is the case, I don’t necessarily see it as all bad. As an actor myself, I love entertaining people, telling stories, and provoking thought in an audience into what it truly means to be human. It’s an art and I believe art teaches us empathy and understanding. I would argue that, when entertained, we are most susceptible to learning something new. If we are fully immersed in a Broadway play or a motion-picture, we may pick up on the message that is trying to be conveyed and learn something new about a group of people different from ourselves.

To add to that, those who go on to achieve what society has deemed as “success” can serve as great role models for our own ambitions and goals. Tom Brady may be inspiring a young, Pee-Wee football quarterback in his dreams to join the NFL someday. Lady Gaga is likely motivating young and old singers to be the best singers they can be. And Mark Zuckerberg has likely provided some inspiration for those young coders looking to make the next big impact in the digital world. These “celebrities” provide a blueprint: it is possible to achieve your dreams.

Is It Possible?

This is where things can get messy though, my friends. Most of us tend to idolize and worship these and many other celebrities because we see them as being superhuman. The tabloids, social media, and the news show off these celebrities for all the world to see. Their work is recognized, their looks often glorified, and their personalities are sold as attributes to aspire to. Because the media projects this on us, and because we often look up to these stars, we see them as gods and suddenly we start to believe that we will never be able to achieve the success that they have. It’s just too rare.

We compare ourselves to the lifestyles of the rich and the famous. Social media has only increased the frequency of these comparisons and we have begun to attach our own self-worth to the number of followers we have on Instagram. We think, “Sure, I will never have as many followers as Justin Timberlake, but if I have more than this other random person, everyone will like me better!” We begin to develop a competitive mindset instead of a one of creation and collaboration.

There are a lot of great perks that come with being a celebrity (I can only imagine!). They have a platform to create change and spread important messages. They have the opportunity to give back in a big way, whether that be through monetary means or the giving of their time to charitable causes. And, perhaps most importantly, they can serve as a role model. While some take this opportunity and completely throw it away, other famous athletes, entertainers, and politicians are doing some truly amazing things in this world.

Misguided Obsessions

I believe the problem is that we are idolizing celebrities for the wrong reasons. We place them on a pedestal that most of us believe is unreachable. But, at the end of the day, these celebrities are human too. They get tired, they laugh, they cry, and they have feelings. I think we forget this. While many of us are obsessing over how talented and godlike these celebrities are, we should really be commending them for their skill, not their talent.

Talent versus Skill

We are all born with talent, despite many believing the opposite. Some of us are naturally more inclined to study statistics or spend their days analyzing important scientific data. Others have more of a creative talent. Perhaps they have a good sense of rhythm and translate that into becoming a dancer or musician. As children, we all tend to lean into our talents, but as we grow older and begin comparing ourselves with others, we have a tendency to regress toward self-doubt. What we need to do is nourish our talent with skill, but many of us do not do this.

If we see an actor on the big screen, say Tom Hanks, and he gives an incredible performance, most of us will say, “Wow…that Tom Hanks! He sure is talented! I can never do what he does!” But this is where we are wrong. Tom Hanks didn’t get that role because he is talented; he got that role because of his incredible skill and work ethic. While it’s true that his talent has developed and has grown stronger over the years, I would argue that this couldn’t be done without fueling his talent with hard work and skill.

I have a friend of mine who is an incredibly talented writer. He made a comment about a colleague of ours who is banging out plays left and right and who is seeing some great success in doing so. My friend remarked, “Her work is just…amazing! I could never write how she does!” While it’s true that my friend could not write exactly the way our colleague does because they come from different backgrounds, he could certainly achieve as much success as she does if he only put in the work to do so.

We see actors and actresses win Academy awards, musicians win Grammys, and athletes win the Lombardi trophy. We think, “Boy, I would give anything to be in their position right now.” But would we? I think most of the time we are fooling ourselves. Most of us aren’t willing to put the work in required to achieve that sort of “success.”

Only One Life

We, as a society, obsess over celebrities, but we do so for all the wrong reasons. Because we idolize these humans as gods, we see their accomplishments as coming from another universe and unlikely to ever materialize in our own lives. So, we stop creating. We don’t create music or act in plays or paint that painting or carve that sculpture. “Why should I bother,” we compromise, “it’s not like I will ever be Picasso.” True, you will never be Picasso, but you can be you, which is just as good. Our obsessions with celebrities can cause us to doubt our own abilities to creatively express ourselves. We rob the world of ourselves if we do this. We must create and create and create and create. And we must not do so in order to achieve society’s version of “success.” We must do so because we will die otherwise. Though we will still be moving and going through our day to day, we won’t be living out our best lives. And we only have one.

We should be respecting and learning from celebrities’ work ethic and the bravery that they had to create and create and create. The universe will thank you for being you. The universe will thank you for being uniquely you and not trying to compete or compare yourself with others. It is only through this way that we can learn to respect and love ourselves, our friends, and our families. We don’t have to be sedated by entertainment. Instead, we can enjoy a movie, a concert, or the big game, and then be thrilled to get back to our life that we are so grateful to live.

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