With the trials and tribulations of Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, Nicole Ritchie and others finally Americans have taken notice of a far to engrossing and cult like fascination with celebrities. This pervasive feeling of friendship with the celebrity and the willingness to care what car they drive and clothes they wear focuses our intellectual energy onto something utterly insignificant.
CNN's Anderson Cooper, appeared ashamed of the Paris Hilton circus during her recent interview on Larry King Live, stating "Sadly, this is part of American culture." Other anchors have refused to report inane stories of celebrity mishaps and have chosen to focus on real news. Even Dana Gioia, during a commencement speech at Stanford, remarked on our National fixation with fame and its disastrous effects on American culture.
America's national obsession with celebrities is an enormous problem as it induces deeper malaise and apathy in an already lazy nation. A British survey recently noted that celebrity watching in schoolchildren revealed that the children developed "celebrity attachments" that served as "pseudo-friends." This often times led children to be lonely and lack strong bonds with friends and family.
Though this study was done on schoolchildren, we see some of the same actions in adults who closely follow Britney and Bradgelina. Clearly, there is a portion of our population that is severely maladjusted and worships stars like Madonna and Michael Jackson. Where does this fanatical worship come from? Surely the fanatics are on the fringe, however their are millions of others who engage and study religiously celebrity discussions and gossip.
Our exponential eroding communities can be directly attributed to our fascination with celebrities among other things. This fascination leads us to connect to others to make sense of our lives. People often consider celebrities as their friends and would do things for them that they would not do for their real friends.
Critics often point to sports with men being similar. This point is not valid because sports are both for men and women to sustain physical activity. Many watch sports to see athletes do marvelous things that they could not achieve and try to emulate them at the local park. The ones that get caught up in the fascination and cult like following of the individual fall into the same category as the people listed above, because sports stars are celebrities as well.
The time spent and energy used on researching and meticulously following the lives of celebrities takes time away from our productivity in our own life and business. Besides entertainment, which is not necessarily a progressive medium, the fascination with celebrity lives will continue to erode our American culture.
Paris Hilton may have had some serious problems, however it will only enhance her appeal and fatten her purse. Americans just can't get enough of the drama.
Everyone from Tocqueville to Wim Wenders has commented upon the dangers of anomie in American life. Over the last half a century, patterns of suburbanization have intensified that sense of alienation and rootlessness. Since the 1970s, a growing disenchantment with politics has further loosened our links to community. Americans disfavor the political process because we feel that we have no effect on it, and we suspect that it's dominated by narrow, powerful forces that don't have our best interests at heart.
So we turn to celebrities because it's easy to follow, full of drama, and meaningless to our future. We are in trouble!