Millions sit hypnotized by the celebrity life. Why are the lives of the rich and famous so fascinating?
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They act. They sing. They dance. They give award-winning performances in dramas and comedies. Magazines glamorize them. The public envies them. Off screen, they marry, have children, and get divorced. Some get arrested, “find religion,” or take on a political cause. They adopt, fight poverty, or combat the spread of AIDS.
Actors become directors. Musicians become actors. Singers become authors. Sports superstars sign movie contracts. There are seemingly no limits or bounds to what celebrities can do.
The media hype surrounding these “beautiful people” is like nothing else. Magazines report the latest celebrity news, and the Internet is swarming with it. Celebrity faces are splashed across advertisements and billboards for all to see. Their lives are on constant display.
People are entranced by celebrity news—why?
The advent of the Internet has changed entertainment news. Websites report the latest on who divorced whom; who gained weight; who was seen where; who is pregnant. People’s craving for intimacy with the famous can even be satisfied by cellphone news alerts. The most searched Internet phrases are almost always celebrity names.
Fascination with celebrities is nothing new; it has only grown more pervasive. The public cannot seem to get enough of every intricate detail of their lives—and from an endless array of sources. Many cannot go a day without reading the latest juicy morsel of celebrity gossip. Drawn like a magnet to trivial facts about other people’s lives, many turn straight to the “Life” or “People” section of their newspaper.
Incidents in a celebrity’s life often make international news. When a highly popular actor is arrested for driving under the influence and lets loose a drunken tirade, the reports can dwarf news coverage of vastly more important world events. Other celebrities are interviewed about their opinions of the actor in question. Even politicians are queried for their opinions. Media pundits ask, “Is his career over? Will he be able to bounce back?”
We hear about celebrities, read about celebrities, and watch celebrities in virtually every medium. Why do so many millions care?
Fueling people’s interest are the infamous photographers behind the photographs. Similar to private investigators, paparazzi use tips to track down and photograph famous people doing mundane, day-to-day activities. These photographs can sell for thousands of dollars. Although some are among the highest paid in the photography industry, paparazzi are generally looked down upon for the intrusive methods they use.
Accidents sometimes result from the famous trying to avoid paparazzi, as was the case with Princess Diana in 1997. Her tragic death was due in part to being chased by the paparazzi.
Further, the line between celebrity reporting and paparazzi is being blurred. A People magazine reporter was arrested for trespassing on a celebrity’s property. Searching for the latest exclusive photo, reporters are now stalking celebrities.
Nothing creates more media frenzy than celebrity couples. Millions are enthralled by which popular actor is dating which famous singer, or which movie star was seen with which sports star. Ridiculous nicknames are coined, combining their first names to create hybrids.
Not content with just the couple, their babies are brought into the public eye. According to CNN, “Few recent celebrity subjects have produced as much table-thumping tabloid copy as questions about the existence and well-being of [celebrity baby].” The report continued, “But after the baby was born…[celebrity couple]…disappeared from public view, leading to a tabloid outcry as to why the child was not being seen.”
Magazines will pay millions for photograph rights. For instance, Variety magazine reported that one well-known couple sold photograph rights of their newborn to a magazine for $4.1 million.
These pictures are actually worth the cost to the magazine due to public demand. For example, one website hosting such photos broke a single-day traffic record, attracting 26.5 million page views!
In a National Public Radio interview, one journalist said, “With celebrity journalism…we really are one giant high school and they’re the cool kids, and everyone on the Internet can comment on them, can envy them, despise them, emulate them. So I understand why you [the public] feel a familiarity with them.”
Millions tune in to “American Idol” and “The X Factor” to watch the newest “average Joe” be transformed into a pop star.
The Nielsen Company reported that “American Idol” regularly reaches over 18 million viewers. “The Voice,” on the other hand, has less than 11 million viewers.
“It comes down to the audience’s emotional investment in the outcome,” Chicago Tribune reported. “‘The Voice’ is about established stars helping pro singers climb a rung in the music-industry ladder…Though ‘Idol’ is becoming increasingly infested with power brokers and middle men…it still comes off as a show about fans voting for singers who appear to be a lot like them—in other words, their peers.”
These celebrity icons are admired and worshiped by millions due to their fame, power, wealth, status and achievements. America bows to these prominent figures. They are truly—and without shame—made into idols and revered as gods.
Shallow minds often focus on people. It is this interest that fuels the ever-increasing wealth of celebrity news and gossip, most prevalent in Western media.
Many people envy the “perfect” lives of celebrities—their posh, multimillion-dollar mansions—expensive cars—monstrous bank accounts—and the freedom that comes with wealth and fame. They seem happy, successful and invincible at times. Celebrity personalities are routinely given special privileges, and often are allowed to live above the law (when compared to the average person) due to their high-profile status.
Consider the popular singer who was reportedly able to bypass the normal legal restrictions surrounding adoption and received permission to adopt a child from Africa.
Such privileges explain part of the reason the public so desires fame, and the riches and power that come with it. Many are willing to do almost anything to get into the media’s spotlight.
While people envy the celebrity lifestyle, they also take joy when a megastar comes crashing down. An actor or singer is arrested, checks into rehab, or goes through a messy divorce, and people take pleasure in reading about it. It is a love/hate relationship many fans have with the celebrities they idolize. This feeling of happiness at a celebrity’s downfall comes from envy or jealousy. Yet followers find themselves suddenly rooting for the famous individual to make a career comeback.
Following a celebrity’s life also serves to divert attention away from one’s own. When focusing on someone else’s problems, thoughts of one’s financial difficulties go away and marriage problems are forgotten (at least temporarily). It is much easier to escape to someone else’s life.
In an article by AFP, a man was quoted as saying, “…celebrity in many ways is defined by how much exposure you get.” The fame celebrities achieve most often has nothing to do with their accomplishments, talents or successes.