Is America Obsessed With Celebrity?

It’s no question that the American culture is obsessed with celebrity. Jealousy is usually involved when we someone on top, along with the drama of seeing someone go from a smooth ride at the top to crashing and burning. Shock values of seeing the falls of important people (and even the everyday citizen who was thrust into the spotlight, be it a high-profile court trial or other aspect) keeps our culture coming back for more.

Even when we pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news, how many times can when count that a celebrity’s court date, fashion line release, death, or other story has taken headline priority over more important events such as the economy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even the tragic deaths of our American soldiers in those wars?

We have to wonder with such fixation on celebrity and pop culture (also known as “low culture”), other things suffer in the process. It’s appalling that many people today recognize names of top designers, music, television, and film stars, yet have no knowledge the names of our last three vice presidents, unable to point out Europe on a map, or never saw the inside of a museum or public library. SAT scores are also considerably lower than in years past, and even literacy rates have dropped in the United States.

Reality shows, “tabloid TV” and the Internet have added fuel to the fire. Even little as 20 years ago, access to celebrities was limited and most information about them came via magazines, newspapers, and entertainment-based talk shows. With the Internet, news and gossip tend to spread quicker, and the average person can be “discovered” for fame just from a YouTube video or cast in a “reality” show.

The downfall? Majority of today’s “celebrities” receiving the moniker through little or no effort, while “old school” stars studied and honed their crafts. The modern standards have been lowered, with many who we have little or no idea what made them famous being in the spotlight.

We also assume it’s easier for celebrities because they (at least some) are wealthy, have a degree of high status and popularity, get special treatment and “perks” not available to the average citizen, and sometimes free passes of sorts in the justice system. Face it, we do experience (albeit secret) glee when they experience public downfall.

There’s also other mentalities which exist among America’s obsession with celebrity. How many times have we read or heard the following? “They asked for it, since choosing to be in high-profile businesses. If they don’t like what’s being written about them, followed in public, or being bothered, they should’ve chosen another profession,” and “You know they like the attention, no matter what anyone writes (or says) about them.”

Perhaps the latter do have a point to a degree. Media coverages play big roles in launching someone to celebrity status, whether helping to sell movie tickets, books, music, or keeping several television shows in the spotlight. Reading about those of celebrity status in print and online media, enjoying their respective crafts, and watching the occasional celebrities on trial is usually nothing more than natural curiosity. We’ve all been guilty of such at one time or another.

When such an obsession begins to interfere with our daily lives, however, it’s time to raise the red flag.

With celebrity obsession, we also tend to forget these people are human beings with families, concerns, worries, and responsibilities. The only differences are dealing with the pressures of celebrity, inability to trust anyone outside their own close circles, and perhaps more than average of their share of personal insecurities.

In America’s current dismal state (our economy, to name one), it’s fine to delve into the world of celebrity for entertainment and occasionally escape values, but when our obsession with celebrity overshadows other, much more important, aspects in our country’s growth, we should sit back and rethink our values and priorities.

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