and famous – or in other words, become a celebrity. In my own family it is clear to see this change: my 13 year old brother has dreamed of becoming a billionaire since he was a small child, when I asked him why he wants to be a billionaire and how he plans to achieve that stature of wealth he replied simply stating that if he was a billionaire he’d have the best life and would be famous, and though he has no idea how to get there – he’s confident he’ll be able to do it.
We fixate on celebrities because they are the better versions of ourselves, or who we hope to become. Celebrities represent fame, wealth, glamour, and beauty; the very traits we most covet. The media tells us that they are who we want to be – our brains interpret the ceaseless supply of information as synonymous to importance, proven by the fact that we collectively ‘hit up’ OMG news, celebrity twitter accounts, and gossip sites over 140 million times a month. All we want as humanity is respect and admiration. Before in my grandparents generation, becoming a doctor or profitable entrepreneur might have earned you these, but now in the 21st century – if I tell my peers that I want to do AIDS research in Africa, they look at my like I’m off my rocker. It seems that only celebrities, like Football stars who work so hard for their hundred million dollar paychecks, are the only ones who can acquire widespread awe for their immortal talents.
The key difference is that “previous generations may have been interested in the so called fabulous life of celebrities, [but…] kids today actually believe fame is achievable” (Austin). Generations past may have admired celebrities such as Judy Garland or Robert Redford, but they acknowledged that realistically they would never make it to Hollywood. Today’s generation honestly believes that they are ‘special’ – that they are capable of doing absolutely anything they want to, and mommy and daddy will help them. A three year old that I babysit next door decided that she wanted to name her new kitten Clara, after herself ; I asked her why she would want that
and she replied “because I am the greatest person in the world, and I want my kitty to be too”. I was quite shocked when I heard this, and I found myself questioning what inspired this change in thought. The answer is simple: technology and the media. Today it is easy to become famous with virtual resources such as YouTube, Second Life, American Idol, Tumblr, and etcetera. Just within the last month, a thirteen year old named Rebecca Black became viral for her ‘hit’ song Friday, going from 200 views to 200,000 plus overnight – now named the “worst song ever written” by YouTube commenters. The girl with auto tuned vocals, ‘shitacular’ dance moves, and awkward friends that look like they are twelve has now become famous for being hated. Yet, when interviewed she thinks that her song is “an accomplishment […], even though they called me a whore and hate the song – it is going to be stuck in their heads” (YouTube – Good Morning America) – this statement only emphasizes the fact that no one cares what dick they have to suck (the popular fame achieving method these days), what names they will be called, what they are famous for – as long as they become famous. I, personally, am dumfounded by extreme many teens are willing to go for the sake of fame. When a freshman keys “COCK SUCKER” into a junior’s car, and dumps hot dogs all over it too - all because the junior hooked up with the freshman’s ‘friend-with-benefits’ while drunk, I know that my generation is in trouble. And maybe it is not my position to care about how other people choose to spend their time, but in reality – we are the generation that needs to eradicate AIDS, that needs to end the fighting in Iraq, that must find an alternative to gasoline – but instead we sit on our asses tuned in every evening to MTV fantasizing about becoming the next Paris Hilton, Ke$ha, or P. Diddy – complete with the “Big Barbie Mansion” and $150,000 Porsche.
This increased trend in materialism is due to narcissism and celebrity fixation, “celebrities are the new in-crowd, and we want to be with the popular kids” (Anastacia Mott Austin) thus meaning to be “in” you must walk like them, talk like them, and look like them. In The Narcissism Epidemic, Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske (co-authors of Trading up) argue that “the growing emphasis on ‘living your best life’ and rewarding yourself – in effect, cultural narcissism – has reduced the guilt Americans once felt for wanting luxury items” (Twenge, 161). The media tricks us into buying these luxury items with slogans such as “because you are worth it” (L’Oreal) and “You deserve it” (McDonalds), and celebrities endorse products to increase their & the representative company’s revenue via your hard earned (or maybe not so much…) dollar. Although not everyone in America is materialistic, some simply cannot afford it, only a few people need to invest in these “buy everything” trends in order to “raise the standards for everyone else” (162). A vivid example is teen fashion now-a-days; some teens even at Santa Cruz High are buying two hundred and fifty dollar jeans even though they will grow out of them in a year or two. They truly believe that they are entitled to these extremely over priced items, and expect their parents to cough up every dollar so they can wear the same outfit Paris Hilton wore last week. Additionally, it is not uncommon to drive around poor areas like the Beach Flats, and see families who have shiny new Cadillac’s in the drive way of their shack like home. We believe that if we simply have the same clothes and/or items as our famous role models, we will become them.
Why we feel celeb-success is easy to obtain, is perhaps an additional change in emphasis towards the mistakes that celebrities make. According to my grandmother, forty years ago, they would never talk about a celebrity like Lindsay Lohan visiting rehab, or Jon and Kates divorce –
instead they would have only focused on the positive in celebrity media. The focus on the positive made the younger generations feel that that level of fame was unattainable, because these celebrities were ‘immortal’ and never made mistakes, they weren’t average Joe’s like the rest of us. But in today’s media we put more of an emphasis on the negative, or the shunned such as wild sex scandals, drugs, abuse; these are the topics that excite people that will bring in the viewers and the money. We are excited by these negative things because it makes us feel better about ourselves, fuels our narcissism. For every success that celebrities have, it only pushes us to be bigger, better, bolder. For every failure we are reminded that we can reach societal immortality, because to be immortal you no longer have to be pure and holy.
- Austin, Anastacia Mott. "Why Are We So Obsessed with Celebrities?" Buzzle Web Portal: Intelligent Life on the Web. 04 July 2007. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. <http://www.buzzle.com/articles/why-are-we-so-obsessed-with-celebrities.html>.
- King, Deborah. "The Impact Celebrities Have on Our Lives - Celebrity Articles - Deborah King Center." Deborah King | Master Healer and Energy Medicine Teacher | Hay House Author. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. <http://www.deborahkingcenter.com/resources/advice/celebrities>.
- "Narcissism | Define Narcissism at Dictionary.com." Dictionary.com | Free Online Dictionary for English Definitions. Ask About. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/narcissism>.
- Twenge, Jean M., and W. Keith. Campbell. The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. New York: Free, 2009. Print.
- "Yahoo!" Yahoo! Yahoo!, 08 Apr. 2011. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. <http://www.yahoo.com/>.
- "YouTube - Rebecca Black Interview on Good Morning America HD." Youtube. Trans. Rebecca Black. Good Morning America, 18 Mar. 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFVPmZhLhho>.
Title from theme song of America’s Next Top Model.