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How Celebrity Culture has Ruined Us (and Why That's Not the End of the World)

By Courtney Enlow | Celebrities Are Better than You | June 9, 2011 | Comments ()


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And before you say it, the parenthetical response is not "because I get paid to be." Though that helps. I recommend it.

Weekly, often twice weekly, I receive comments, tweets and street dance-off requests berating me for my frequent and harsh judgments. But I can't help it. I'M SICK. I am among those affected by the disease called "Celebrity Culture." I have spent 26 years under an onslaught of information regarding the highly unnatural world of fame, and it has ruined me. And probably you, too.

Or, I'm just an asshole. It's really an either/or scenario.

1. Universal schadenfreude

The most obvious sign of illness. Dear heavens, do we love the misfortune of others. The harder they fall, the harder our schadenfreude-rection. You think you're too cool? You think you're immune? Look at the explosion over this Weiner incident.

Ignoring any and all reaction you had to the real episode, now pretend it was Sarah Palin.

You would all look at the photos. And about 80% of you would laugh. Yes, there would be other emotions or thoughts mixed in there, but you know that the majority of you would enjoy that something bad happened to this person who irritates you.

To a much lesser extent, that is what happens during every celebrity scandal. Whether we actively "enjoy" it or not, we pay attention. Our interest is piqued by this bad thing that is happening to someone wealthier and more attractive than we are, and an ugly, ugly piece of us somehow feels they deserve the bad for all the good they've received.

2. Voyeurism as sport

Public interest is not limited to the bad experiences in the life of a well-known individual. We are captivated by the good as well. To some, this may be a step in the right direction, a more positive spin on the last paragraph. But it isn't. Because we are still focusing time, energy and thought on something that has nothing to do with us.

This is of course at its clearest in the realm of reality television, particularly those that follow the famous and semi-famous in their regular day-to-day made for television lives. Have you have watched a Kardashian show? Nothing happens. Ever. It's fake, scripted and it's still boring as fuck. And yet people watch by the millions.

It's not merely limited to reality TV, though. Do a YouTube search of absolutely any celebrity couple. Someone somewhere has made a tribute video set to a cheesy love song filled with their photos. Even brand new couples I still don't 100% buy. We feel somehow involved in the lives of these strangers. Do you even know how many death threats Bombshell McGee and Jesse James received after they had their hookups behind the back of Sandra Bullock? Somewhere between a shit ton and eleventy billion. Sandy B. was hurt; we were all hurt.

3. Superiority epidemic...

Ever notice how we all seem to know exactly how we'd behave in the same situations as these people of whose lives we have little to no comprehension?

To me, it's not dissimilar to the way of thinking about God. To ascribe human emotions like anger or pleasure to this being who, if even it exists, we are physically incapable of even imagining, is pointless. We do this same thing with those in the realm of fame. And to anyone who is horrified and/or amused that I just made a comparison between our Lord and a Jennifer Love Hewitt or a Wilmer Valderrama, know that I did so because in the mind of a famous person, that makes perfect sense. We can't understand that level of delusion and ego, so we genuinely cannot understand any of the other shit they do.

4. ...with an inferiority virus outbreak

And that's why, in addition to the aforementioned prettiness and wealth, we feel beneath them. It goes half and half--some of us fall at their feet, believing them to be better than we, some of us filled with hate towards these victims of sheer luck. For many of us, we have a couple of each, minimum. I know I do. Swinton is a deity; Kutcher is gnat that is constantly attempting to fly up my nose.

Either way, we know we're different from them, deserved or not.

5. A complete and total loss of empathy

When Lindsay Lohan's fancy anklet starts going all beepy-buzzy, very few respond "that poor girl." More often than not, it's "that stupid bitch." We find them so different from we, the mere peons, we no longer treat these people as though they are in any way human. They are things, ragdolls paid to dance around for our enjoyment and disdain, depending on what we desire that day.

My response to every commenter in the history of the internet who says, "Who cares?" is this: people. People care. They do. I wish they didn't, I wish I didn't, but I do. That's the culture.

And that's okay. Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter.

How is it affecting your life if your officemates pour over People Magazine with intensity? Is it really the worst thing in the world that people really give a shit about whether or not Jennifer Aniston is still all broken up about Brad Pitt? Why would it bother you if I write a thousand-word diatribe about what a twat I think Lea Michele is?

It's the circle of fame. They exist, and it is that enjoyment and disdain that keeps them there. Some of it is too much, some of it is awful, and some of it, when done in a manner that actually disrupts people's lives (slanderous proper journalism and paparazzi fucks) should be examined. But for the rest of us, let's just carry on. Because as long as people are famous, people will have opinions and feelings and desires to be just like them or to be nothing like them ever. And that's okay.

Like everyone else, I too get worried that shows like Teen Mom and Jersey Shore are leading to dipshit teenagers actively trying to be famous for the same reasons the people on those programs are. But then I remember something: no, they aren't. And if they are, they have way bigger problems than cable television, and they'd probably be fuckups anyway. They're someone else's problem, and we're far too busy with other, more famous people who aren't our problem.

I wish we could all be goodly people, unaffected by a twisted fascination with the rich and famous. But that's a wish that will never come true. So, we laugh and point at the monkeys with the cymbals and enjoy the show.

Be a better person if you can be. Otherwise, hate on, haters. You're doing your part to keep the circle unbroken.



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