Why the Cult of Celebrity?

Why is there such a fascination with celebrities (actors, musicians, professional athletes)?
And, yes, I realize not everyone is.

I’ve been thinking about how often we hear about celebrities just going through an average day, on T.V., the radio, and by reading the newspaper.

Do you think Americans, generally speaking, are more or less fascinated with celebrities than other cultures?

How does media coverage of celebrities contribute to our consumer culture?

I think celebrities are held up almost like American royalty (i.e. John F. Kennedy Jr., Elizabeth Taylor) for no achieved merit of their own and that’s really sad.
However, I envisioned a life without movies or sports and what comes to mind is the atmosphere of the English Reformation when all of the playhouses were closed…

And, see, I’m not even going to bring up voyeur T.V…

Because stupid people are jealous of them. Personally, I find most famous people to be the most inane personalities on the planet.

Poeple are fascinated by celebrities because their own lives are so incredibly dull and boring. Face it, if you lived a full and interesting life you wouldn’t care who Brad Pitt was sleeping with.

[rant]In America, though, we do something other cultures (like Japan) don’t do, and that is setting people up to tear them down. Other cultures respect their celebrities for their accomplishments (movies, TV shows, books…) and don’t pay good money to read tabloid lies about the people they love. When the shine wears off an American celeb, then they are fair game for every kind of slander and liable in the book. Our tabloids (and the British tabloids) tear apart famous people just to sell newspapers. It disgusts me.[/rant]


Honestly I don’t really know. When I hear about a celebrity I like about I’m more interested in their careers. When someone interviews Harrison Ford or Paul McCartney I want them to say something about what they do for a living.

On the other hand I love Biography on A&E. Even when it comes to people I think I’d have no interest in that show manages to hook me and reel me in.


The other day Entertainment Tonight had a big show about JFK’s last day on earth. I have no idea why anyone would find this of any interest.


Difficult to say. In some asian countries they keep it an open secret that Jackie Chan has a wife. Why? Because they’re afraid some of the younger female fans might kill themselves. (I read that in a magazine so perhaps that isn’t true.) I don’t know exactly how we stack up to the rest of the world in this regards. But it does seem to me that the Japanese go crazy over certain stars much the same way we do.


It probably doesn’t contribute much. I mean they’re only providing something that people want.


Elizabeth Taylor became famous on her own merits. JFK jr. just happened to be the handsome son of a dead president.


I think the problem is news/newsmagazines are cheap to make.
If you take a cameraman and a reporter to get footage at Sundance, that beats real reporting for cost/minute any day.

The reason people “like” it then is that they aren’t particular and will take what is offered.
They will take reruns of Millionaire, or back-to-back Simpsons reruns.

Sports shows are also cheap, as are the “business of Show Business” news bits like box office take.

I’m sure nobody actually cares which movie is making the most, but if someone is keeping score, they want to see that score.

I think it starts with the fact that most people want heroes. This is not necesserily a bad thing - people need role models, people to emulate, to admire, to help define themselves. The thing is, after they’ve decided upon a hero, they have to make sure whether or not he personally deserved their admiration. You may really like a certain singer, or actor, but if you find out that he is a jerk in real life, you’ll feel betrayed. Therefore, people like to keep tab.
Because Americans and British tend to hold moral character as more important than other nationalities, they care more about the personal lives of their idols. After a while it becomes self-perpetuating.

Historical perspective, guys—there has ALWAYS been a fascination with celebs, who (to quote Lina Lamont) “bring a little joy and cheer into our dreary and hum-drum lives.” Take a look at newspapers and magazines from the 18th and 19th centuries—they idolized stage stars, royalty, criminals, in a way that makes US look blasé!

A lot of it has to do with the advances in media—with more magazines, TV, the Internet, there’s more opportunity to spy on celebs.

And some of it has to do with the same reason people “need” royalty or religion—most people are basically sheep who need someone “above them” to show them, “the way.”

If we didn’t build some people up, how else could we tear them down later?

But in the case of JFK, Jr., there is a generation gap to consider. To me (30’s), he was just a really cute guy with a famous dead father, and there are lots of those (Tyrone Power Jr. leaps to mind). Still, no big deal. However, to my parent’s generation, he was almost like THEIR son. Many of them worshipped his dad, and had a real attachment to him.

Which I guess explains my mother-in-law’s horrified reaction when the thought was voiced that, rather than an unexplainable tragedy, the plane crash was a result of a rich spoiled man who never heard the word “no” thoughtlessly killing his wife & sister-in-law by flying during conditions he was never trained for.

That sure livened up dinner…

Because they’re famous, of course.

How do you think they GOT that way?

Yer pal,

Three months, one week, four days, 7 hours, 47 minutes and 1 second.
4092 cigarettes not smoked, saving $511.62.
Life saved: 2 weeks, 5 hours, 0 minutes.

I personally think I’m the most good looking, intelligent, talented person in the world. Nobody matches my keen wit. Nobody can hide from the sparkle in my eye. The sun rises only to light my path in this world.
BUT, I have done NOTHING to reveal myself to the public. I don’t act, I don’t sing, I don’t write, and I don’t know anybody famous. So the world must go on hero-worshipping the people who do reveal themselves.
I bet the majority of the people on this board all deserve to be hero-worshipped, but the majority of us are NOT famous and will NEVER be famous. It seems celebs are everywhere, but they are a pretty small minority. It’s pretty easy to be awestruck by someone who has more talent in their lil finger then you ever will. It’s amazing to follow the life of someone you consider to have all the looks and the money. Why? Because YOU never will. And neither will your neighbors, and neither will your parents.
In this case, the minority is to be held in reverance instead of distaste or fear.

I’ve always thought that had JFK Jr. lacked in the looks department, he wouldn’t have been given a second thought by the younger generation. As for the older generation, I think he cemented himself in the hearts of many of them when he saluted his father’s coffin during the funeral. JFK was before my time, and I find that to be a very moving scene, so I can only imagine what it must have been like to those who were mourning JFK and saw this at the time.

Jackie Chan has a wife? Time to break out the rusty razor blades!