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The Absurd Lure of Celebrity

By Michael Reisig

Last week America was locked in the throes of social and racial struggle – the backfire of the Zimmerman Trial verdict tearing at the very fabric of our society. At the same time we had New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner challenging America’s cultural and moral limitations with their sexual circus acts, and a major oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was burning out of control. But when I turned on the news, I couldn’t get the latest word on any of these stories, as networks everywhere had stopped everything, their cameras all poised at the doors of the hospital where the English royal couple Prince William and his wife, Kate, were expected to announce the birth of their child – for hours on end.  This continued into the next day as well, even more earnestly, when the royal couple was expected to present their baby to the public.

Please, someone tell me exactly how the birth of a child that’s not even American trumps culture and society-changing news in America? A baby, in another country, that may or may not become significant 30 years from now? Granted, it is history in a sense, but to most discerning Americans, it’s not worth hours and hours of fawning prattle and conjecture. The truth is, it’s just not that significant, but we have become a nation engrossed in celebrity worship, and the media feeds that urge.

Wikipedia describes “Celebrity Worship Syndrome” as an “obsessive-addictive disorder in which a person becomes overly involved with the details of a celebrity’s personal life.” We can’t get enough pictures, banal expressions, marriages and divorces, incarcerations, or recent faux pas’ of people in the brilliant limelight of America’s celebrity gardens. We grow them up, weed them out, and grow more. They are America’s fragile gods, and we worship them in a fashion that is embarrassing at best and senselessly fanatic at worst.

Celebrities are our modern day gods, the pillars that hold aloft the cult of personality. Millions of people embrace this cult, existing in a vicarious obsession, losing what little there is of themselves, while living in an all-consuming search for someone to light their fire, rather than lighting it themselves.

The secret to a healthy, happy life is to become your own celebrity. Most of us just want something to be enthusiastic about, so why not focus on yourself? It’s far more rewarding than suffering all your attention on some vanity-laden, ego-laced celebrity that doesn’t even know you exist. Become your own star. If you want to seek role models, search out people who have become famous because they are significant, not those who have become significant because of fickle fame. Find and honor those who are contributors to the family of man, not individuals who will end up as footnotes to celebrity. And never confuse fame with notoriety.

I will leave you with a quote by Jean Jacques Rousseau who, hundreds of years ago, got it spot on: “Fame is but the breath of the people, and that often unwholesome.”