It’s easy to dismiss celebrity culture as trivial and irrelevant, the new opium of the masses and beneath anyone who is invested in being spiritual. However, I recommend taking them seriously because celebrities are symptoms of our culture and also inform it. If we don’t engage with that, there are consequences.
How do we think about mental health and how do we support people who are suicidal? If a high profile person is dismissed as attention seeking, what does that do to all the regular people who see that happening? If you are suicidal, and you see people you might have turned to talking about how attention seeking this celebrity is… will you feel able to talk about your own struggles?
There’s a high profile couple out there with some serious domestic violence issues. Who do you believe and who do you dismiss? How does this impact on the family member who is dealing with increasing violence at home? Are you making it easy for them to ask you for help, or are you saying things about celebrities that might distress them into silence?
It’s not just what we say ourselves, either, it’s what we allow to go unchallenged. It’s every time we don’t say something to the friends who express white privilege in face of a racist book. It’s every time we don’t say anything about an article objectifying and sexualising a high profile woman.
And yes, it’s relentless and yes its exhausting feeling like you have to talk about everything that goes wrong, and no, you wouldn’t keep up with it even if it was your full time job to try. But you can still try, and show up where you can, and be alert to the ways in which celebrity culture impacts on wider culture.
Celebrity culture is culture. It shapes what people think is normal and acceptable. It holds a mirror up to us collectively and tells us what we think is ok. Even if you don’t think it impacts on you, it probably does through the small drips of information you can’t avoid if you are online. It’s so easy to end up thinking ah yes, another vacuous airhead selling her body to get media attention – because slut shaming is so normal, because women who don’t play the right games around appearance don’t get the same opportunities, because we assume that being sexual and being clever aren’t compatible in a woman. If you can’t do anything about celebrity culture anywhere else, keep an eye on what happens in your own mind when these figures go by, and check on what you’ve been taught to think about them.
Watch out especially for the things you are persuaded that someone deserves because of how they have been presented by the media, and how they function as a commodity in our consumer society. We really shouldn’t be consuming people in the first place, it’s not healthy.