We can’t avoid celebrity culture in the modern world. It has wormed its way in to almost every part of our lives, from mainstream news, social media and even in advertisements. But is our celebrity obsessed culture going too far?
Some people may follow their favourite celebrities’ every move almost religiously, whilst others may regard them with little interest. But very few will never have heard of names such as Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus and the Beckhams, whether they like them or not.
Being intrigued by the lives of famous figures isn’t a new trend; people have gossiped about actors, musicians and even political figures for centuries. Some scientists argue that it is simply part of our nature to have a curiosity regarding such topics. However, the rise of social media and the Internet has made it part of our daily lives, opening up any app and ‘liking’ things they post.
But, is society’s ever-increasing obsession with celebrity culture such a bad thing? It usually gets a bad name – scandalous, trashy tabloid headlines and advertisements fill space in magazines and newspapers, which may encourage people to buy into celebrity culture and endorsements. And yes, the intrusion into some famous people’s lives can get a bit uncomfortable – Prince Harry recently talked about his hatred of the press’ “incessant need” to find out every little detail about his private life. And nobody can forget Britney Spears’ meltdown, after which paparazzi would camp outside her home without thought for her wellbeing. And there are unfortunately hundreds, if not thousands of other examples of negative tabloid culture, including stalking celebrities on the beach or when they are with family.
However, on a positive note, celebrity culture can bring serious issues to the forefront of our society. Beyoncé’s Lemonade caused a huge commotion that got us all talking about empowerment, civil rights, love and infidelity. Kanye’s track Famous, off newest album The Life of Pablo, got everybody discussing his derogatory line about Taylor Swift (“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous”), and coincidentally, about the often negative interpretation of women in lyrics and the entertainment industry as a whole.
The airbrush debacle is also ongoing – the want of publications for celebrities to look perfect in photoshoots has amplified the discussion over women’s body confidence in general, and what younger girls are growing up reading and watching. Other issues such as gender have can also be discussed more openly when celebrities are involved. Caitlyn Jenner has certainly enhanced the generally positive attention given towards transgender people by the media and public, whether you agree with how she has handled the transition or not.
Gossiping about the latest celebrity to have been given an injunction, or who they are dating who also gives us a little break from our own crazy hectic lives. And we love nothing more than a good gossip, trawling forum sites and magazines for the latest news. It adds a bit of excitement to our existence, right? We get sucked in to a ‘how the other half live’ kind of world, with the possibility of living a fantasy world through other people. This escapism proves even more exciting when the celebrity is involved in negative scandal, as we can often then compare our lives in a positive light.
We have all developed a para-social relationship or two with certain celebrities (meaning we know a lot about them but they don’t even know we exist). Everybody has a favourite, or at least someone they admire. Our connections to celebrities have been incredibly showing, even so far in 2016, with the endless list of star deaths. People have genuinely been grieving for David Bowie, Victoria Wood and Alan Rickman amongst the countless others. Most will have never even met them or seen them in person, and many more will not have been familiar with all of their work, but that doesn’t matter.
Our obsession and relationship with celebrities is always going to be there, and the examples of compassion, empathy and debate that it so often brings to society suggests that it shouldn’t receive the negative attention it often does.
Words: Sian Kissock