by Kenneth Justice
~Whenever young people are asked, “Would you rather be given a million dollars or be famous?” the majority of young people in the Western World answer unequivocally “I wanna be famous!”
I happen to live in a metropolitan area that has been granting Hollywood Film Studios money and other incentives to film their movies in our cities. Thus, over the past number of years the coffee shops I hang out at have been the stomping grounds of all the A-List actresses and actors that fill the big screen and those that are apart of many people’s weekly television viewing habits; the celebrities are everywhere.
Some of my coffee house acquaintances are obsessed with racking up lists of all the actors and actresses they have shaken hands with or had coffee next to; some of these acquaintances have become so tiresome with their celebrity obsession that I find myself making a B-line out the door of the café if I see them sitting down.
A couple weeks ago a particular celebrity ordered coffee and sat down at my table to read the newspaper early one morning. He and I had chitchatted a few times in the past but I reserve the morning time for writing my articles so I have only ever politely responded to him, not wanting to get caught up in a deep conversation.
While I sat there typing away at my laptop and he sat there reading the newspaper…..unfortunately the word got out that “he” was sitting in the café so that within fifteen minutes, a quiet morning drinking coffee and writing a couple articles became a massive annoyance as a bloody conga line of customers kept coming over to our table to ask if they could ‘shake his hand’, congratulate him on his work, or to get his autograph……neither he nor I could take it anymore and finally we both left together.
Obviously, celebrity worship is nothing new in the Western World. From Tinsel Town’s golden years, and every era in between, men, women and children in the Western World love celebrities. Musicians, actors, athletes, fill-in-the-blank; celebrities have become so beloved in our culture that while we will complain about the supposed injustice of a big business CEO earning 3 million a year…..we don’t say a word about an actor who makes 40 million dollars a year making films where things blow up and the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired.
Young people wanna be famous. Like small pox or the bubonic plague; celebrity worship and “I-wanna-be-famous-itus’ is one of the most contagious epidemics our culture is experiencing. But is there a cure? Should there be a cure? Perhaps there is nothing wrong with the out-of-whack obsession people have in worshiping celebrities?
An Evangelical pastor friend-of-mine recently retired and over a cup of coffee I asked him what he wanted to do with his life now. “Well Kenneth, I’ve been working on a couple book ideas and what I really want to do is to get a book published and spend the rest of my life touring the United States speaking at Evangelical conferences”. It took me a moment to realize he was being serious; publishing the book I understood….but what the hell was his true motivation for being a full-time conference speaker? Was it to truly help people…..or merely to be a famous Christian Speaker? I won’t pretend to know his heart…..but I had never heard someone who was so much older than me so openly admit to wanting to be ‘seen and heard‘.
Being ‘seen and heard’ is not something that interests me nor does it sound like it would be very fun. As we’ve seen with many celebrities in recent years; all of your flaws become front page news…..so why someone would aspire to being famous is something I haven’t figured out.
One of the great ironies in life is that once a person becomes famous; they spend the rest of their life hiding from the public and trying to live a quiet life away from the eyes of their fans.
Many psychologists believe our culture’s celebrity obsession is rooted in the idea that many people do not like their life. Worshipping a celebrity then, becomes an opportunity to live vicariously through the life of someone rich and famous; and so celebrity magazines and rags tell us where the celebrity went to shop today, where they partied on Friday night, and every other little tad bit of gossip to do with their inane life. And this is what concerns me to no end;
—) What is wrong with Western Culture that so many people are unsatisfied with their lives?
—) What is wrong with society that people feel compelled to spend so much of their time thinking about celebrities who are generally irrelevant to our lives?
—) What is wrong with our culture that so many people, both young and old, are obsessed with being famous?
To say that celebrities are not one of my fascinations would be an understatement. I can’t really tell you why they don’t interest me. Perhaps it is because I already feel a bit overwhelmed keeping up with all my friends, acquaintances, and clients as it is. I simply don’t have time to follow the monotonous daily exploits of someone whom I have never met or who I hardly know.
Thankfully the café is quiet this morning, I think I will enjoy another cup of coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society