Skip to comments.What's Behind Our Obsession With Celebrity?
Posted on 02/28/2006 3:32:36 PM PST by Incorrigible
What's Behind Our Obsession With Celebrity?
BY MICHELE M. MELENDEZ And DRU SEFTON
Who cares about "Brangelina," the reportedly salacious relationship of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie? And who needs to know about Lindsay Lohan's weight fluctuations or Michael Jackson's facial transformations?
A lot of you do.
Celebrity news blazes from television shows, slick weekly magazines and up-to-the-minute blogs. Star-laden galas -- including Sunday's Academy Awards -- fuel the hype with fashion parades and backstage catfights.
"I think almost everyone dreams of having fabulous lives with millions of dollars of disposable cash," said Jen Prall, 24, of York, Pa., who subscribes to People magazine and frequents celebrity-themed blogs. "So it's a way of living vicariously through them."
Actress Lindsay Lohan, a favorite of the celebrity gossip magazines, stops to sign an autograph in Manhattan after leaving a fall fashion show in early February. What's behind Americans' fascination with celebrities? (Photo by Aristide Economopoulos)
That appetite has surged, media analysts say.
"Celebrity gossip has become like the blob in that (1958) Steve McQueen movie: It spreads everywhere it can," said Matthew Felling, media director of the Washington-based Center for Media and Public Affairs, a research group. "`Entertainment Tonight' begat `Access Hollywood.' TV people saw these two shows could succeed and created an entire channel for it," E! Entertainment Television.
Hall's Reports of Stamford, Conn., which tracks magazine content, counts more pages devoted in recent years to entertainment and celebrity news, in titles as various as Us Weekly and National Geographic.
Sandy Santora, Hall's senior vice president/research director, also notes a growing selection of magazines dedicated to celebrity coverage. Readers "can't get enough of it," she said.
It's a form of escapism, explains Boulder, Colo., psychiatrist Doreen Orion. And that's OK, she adds, as long as the admirers have enough to enjoy in their own lives.
Plus, Orion says, some feel it's just fun to snicker about the famous.
Dennis Lewis, 49, of Orange Park, Fla., says he relishes reading about the misfortunes of celebrities who appear to be "full of themselves."
It's human nature, says Frank McAndrew, psychology professor at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.
"For most of our history, humans lived in relatively small groups," McAndrew said. Those who used their social skills to gather information -- whether to recruit allies or attract a mate -- succeeded in the community. Often, uncovering secrets proved useful.
In today's global neighborhood, celebrities are targets.
"We're kind of programmed to want dirt on other people," McAndrew said. "We can use it to our advantage," even if it's to assure ourselves about how well-adjusted our lives are by comparison.
Sue Erikson Bloland, a psychotherapist in New York, sees an underlying social shift.
"We live in a culture in which we are very much in transition," she said. "Traditional values, traditional beliefs, traditional institutions have weakened. We really don't know what to believe in."
Why not celebrities?
Meanwhile, psychologists say, learning so much about the famous can lead to a genuine concern for them, which may in turn feed a desire to know more.
Grace Dawson, 23, of Stanchfield, Minn., takes an interest in the divorce proceedings of singers Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, who allowed cameras in their California home for their MTV reality show, "Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica."
"We feel like this is our relationship too, because we saw so much of it," Dawson said.
Lynn McCutcheon, co-author of "Celebrity Worshippers: Inside the Minds of Stargazers" and assistant professor of psychology at DeVry University in Orlando, Fla., has examined fans of the famous. Various studies, he says, have found that people who score high for celebrity worship tend not to be as smart as those who score lower.
"A lot of them -- well, I'll use a phrase my younger daughter used when talking about this," he said. "`Dad, a lot of those people need to get a life.' That's a bit of an overgeneralization, but true."
Ouch. Harsh words, but a common view.
"I really wonder who is that pressed for that information" about celebrities, said Cathy Cruz, 25, of East Prospect, Pa. She says she's too occupied with her own business to be concerned about people she doesn't know and likely never will meet.
But even those who don't care are bombarded.
"The tabloids line the grocery store checkout aisles; most news outlets (broadcast) entertainment news ... and even Internet pop-ups and ads often reference celebrity gossip," said John McGrath, 28, of Boston. "It's pretty much impossible to get away."
Psychologists theorize that people unmoved by celebrities' lives simply are too busy or focus their gossiping energy elsewhere.
Charles Cook Jr., 22, of Mobile, Ala., just feels sorry for the stars:
"It seems like you lose your privacy, and you can't go a day without someone waiting for you to make a very human mistake."
Feb. 28, 2006
(Michele M. Melendez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; Dru Sefton can be contacted at email@example.com)
Not for commercial use. For educational and discussion purposes only.
What do you mean "our", white man?
We are a bored society with too much money and too much leisure time.
It fills the void left when one does not worship God.
When I meet "normal"
say, down at the mall,
and those women look,
say, like Anna, I obsess
about them, also.
Fills the ancient village need for "gossip" that at one time was indeed useful information. Now the village gossip is the entire nations trashiest individuals vomited up and served nightly on TV.
Its what some people want.
Democrats need someone to admire and lookup to (when they should be turning to God).
Republicans need celebrities to have someone to make fun of.
look at all the threads on freerepublic where they post the photos of celebrity women.
It's the same personification or anthropomorphizing that accounts for the monarchical form of government and (some would say) for the beginnings of religion.
If you've got a full life with lots of friends and acquaintances, you don't need to fixate on celebrities and their empty lives (your friends will provide you with enough to gossip about).
It's funny when celebrity culture meets older ways of public life. Today, Anna Nicole Smith is at the Supreme Court, and is described in the mainstream media as an "ex-stripper" or a "former playboy model."
If you keep up with cable TV and celebrity magazines, you may realize just how inadequate those labels are to describe Anna Nicole (see, I don't use her last name, so you'll think I actually know her or am in the loop).
I've got Brad Pitt's bippy. Want'a touch it?
The times change, but The New York Slimes just stays the same...
What's Behind Our Obsession With Celebrity?
Sorry Michele and Dru. I have no obsession with anyone much less a celebrity or so called celebrity. So, please don't include me in the OUR obsession. That's the trouble with journalists...they always think they are speaking for everyone.
Film at 11....
I don't even need to know who Lindsay Lohan is.
hey if I got to a sporting event, especially when there are players involved that I have followed or have their collectibles, I definitely understand trying to get an autograph or something.
But some of these people take it to the extreme.
I was just told by a hispanic worker at my house the other day that Richard Dryfus came out against Bush as if that really meant something. I laughed.
The problem in America is we don't know our neighbors so we adopt "celebrities" as the objects of our gossip obsession. They are the objects of our obsession because we isolate ourselves from our "villages" and lack "real" human beings to talk about..
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