BY MICHAEL REISIG –
Throughout the history of the world, celebrity has always held value. In the early days it was monarchs and their champions – warriors of exceptional caliber whose deeds were woven into ballads and tales. Later, in Rome, winners of Olympic games established celebrity, poems were written in their honor, gladiators followed, and later, leaders such as Julius Caesar had their images printed on coins. Martyrs were also successful at celebrity – archdeacon of Canterbury Thomas Beckett was one of those, whose brutal murder gained him celebrity. Later, world societies began to place value on the talent of the mind, and musicians like Mozzart, and London’s most successful playwright, William Shakespeare, reached the pinnacle of notoriety.
As America was born out of a ragged group of colonies and endured into a nation, new celebrities were born, but most were generals, politicians, and statesmen, although there were a few remarkable writers such as Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe, and performers with genuine histories such as Wild Bill Hickok and Annie Oakley.
As America grew we continued to create celebrities, often bound to the era or the times, and gradually modern celebrity culture, instead of seeking virtues and talents, moved away from individuals with positive characteristics and moral values, and began to seek out and elevate those most willing to break ethical boundaries, such as Al Capone, John Gotti, and Pablo Escobar. Gradually we began to accept and then glorify a “gangsta” culture, and counter culture individuals who challenged the bastions of family and the concepts of integrity, faith, and even honesty.
Celebrity has played a huge role in the changing of America in the last half-century, from Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres, to Stephen Spielberg and Lady Gaga, but what celebrities have learned is that whether they are right or wrong, their voices change things, because sadly, it is part of human nature to be influenced by those you admire. Moreover, we appear to be losing our ability to intelligently evaluate, because today we are less a nation of self-confident individuals and more a consortium of easily influenced non-thinkers, who read and appraise less and make our decisions more and more on what we are fed through social media.
To give you some perspective of the changing times, historians at The Christian Post gathered a list of the top ten most influential people in the history of the world. These included Thomas Jefferson, Alexander The Great, Aristotle, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, William Shakespeare, Napoleon Bonaparte, and not surprisingly, Jesus Christ.
Last year USA Today offered a selection on the present world’s most influential people/celebs, including at and near the top: Bill Gates, Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Hawkins, Sergey Brin and Larry Page (founders of Google), Sam Walton, and Nelson Mandela.
This year, Forbes included in its top ten most influential celebrities in America Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé Knowles, Madonna, Bon Jovi, Justin Bieber, and Ellen DeGeneres.
I don’t know about you, but I have a tough time using Madonna, Justin Bieber, or Lady Gaga in the same sentence with Thomas Jefferson, Bill Gates, or Stephen Hawkins.