Demystifying Americans’ Celebrity Worship
On Sept. 7, Fox News reported that actress Zooey Deschanel and her husband, Jacob Pechenik, decided to separate after four years of marriage. This bit of news was carried “below the fold,” but on the homepage of the Fox News website. On Sept. 14, Fox reported that Deschanel was now dating “Property Brothers” star Jonathan Scott after splitting from her husband. On Sept. 15, Fox carried a story about Scott’s comments on his romance with Deschanel, and a Sept. 17 installment carried both entertainers’ back story of how their romance was kindled.
Leaving aside the legendary superficiality of Hollywood romances and the moral ambivalence of people in the entertainment industry in general, there are some cultural observations here upon which I intend to expound.
More often than not during my morning scan of news sources, I run across at least one or two stories like those above. This is the case whether we’re discussing Fox News, another alternative media source, or traditional media sources, although the latter do tend to give far more ink to celebrity news.
My thesis statement, or more accurately, my thesis question, is this: Who cares?
I’m not singling out Fox News on this one either; it’s just that their coverage handily illustrated the observations I’m addressing here. Nor is this a case of your humble commentator simply being frustrated with celebrities given how dedicated so many are to leftist politics and how vociferous their incessant, uninformed utterances typically are.
The central observation of which I speak is that Americans are far too keenly “tuned-in” to celebrities overall: Their lives, their romances, their children, their addictions, their adversities and their opinions. It’s one of those things that’s become so culturally ingrained we don’t even think about it, but even the most informed among us are guilty of this to some extent.
Granted that when a film or TV icon, a professional athlete or a high-profile music industry personality breaks the law or passes away, this is legitimate news, because they’re famous. Thus, the widely-reported college admissions scandal involving actress Lori Loughlin is legitimate news. Her beleaguered daughter making a vulgar Instagram post in her frustration attendant to the scandal and then deleting it, however, is most definitely not newsworthy.
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer appearing on “Dancing With The Stars” may be worth a mention above the fold because he used to work for President Trump, but actor Nicholas Cage being unrecognizable at a movie premiere because he’s now sporting a full beard should most certainly be relegated to the Entertainment section, as should the decades-old story of an unrequited romance between Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra.
There’s also no escaping the newsworthiness of some of the incendiary political rhetoric emanating from entertainment industry celebrities and pro athletes these days. Considering the hostile political climate at present and the leftist leanings of so many celebrities, their presence in the news talking politics is pretty much unavoidable.
The phenomenon of this cult of personality in America has of course been exhaustively discussed over many decades, but given the political climate and the stakes at hand, I believe it’s more important than ever to put it into perspective.
Our proclivity for consuming titillating, salacious tripe is part of our nature as human beings and could be considered something of a collective but minor character defect. There are, however, a lot of things we as human beings feel drawn to do but refrain from doing because we know that there are harmful aspects to certain behaviors.
I would submit that this entrenched celebrity fixation is one of them.
The culture of Hollywood – wherein celebrity worship had its genesis – has been freakish and narcissistic since the institution’s inception, but the impetus for cultivating this culture of worship around celebrities was originally motivated by money. Obviously, if a marketer cultivates an ongoing sense of awe and wonder around their product, consumers are more likely to buy in perpetuity. The same marketing strategy was then applied to pro athletes and music industry icons. It is a financial imperative that drives movie and record companies, TV producers and sports franchises to nurture an atmosphere in which fans wait with bated breath for the next story or sound bite from their favored star or icon.
While we’re at it, let’s not neglect the idiomatic derivation of such words as “star” and “icon.” These designations have always carried the connotation of worship, so I’d wager it’s no accident that these were applied early on, and intentionally, in order to foster celebrity worship. Our aforementioned proclivity for consuming titillating, salacious tripe is now what the press and entertainment media count on as legions of managers, agents, publicists, paparazzi, celebrity-dedicated publications, and reporters work doggedly to keep celebrities on our radar.
It’s been said that one reason Americans have a tendency toward celebrity worship may be because we don’t have royalty, as they do in Britain. I believe that this is completely fallacious, nor do I think that Americans’ proclivity for engaging in celebrity worship of the British Royal Family has much to do with our historical ties to Britain.
In the end, I believe that celebrity worship in America comes down to one part consumerism and one part idolatry. It’s the idolatry part that concerns me because this is being driven by the same agencies that are driving the culture war and socialist ascendancy.
And isn’t it curious that, as those agencies have encouraged Americans to abandon long-held traditional values and spiritual pursuits, they’ve provided us with a ready-made pantheon of gods to worship?
Article posted with permission from Erik Rush