Our Celebrity Obsessed Culture

Fans of singer Justin Bieber scream as he performs on NBC's Today Show in New York

Today, the film The Bling Ring, which stars Emma Watson and Leslie Mann and is based on the Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales, hits theaters nationwide.  It is based on the now infamous string of crimes dubbed The Bling Ring.  A group of teenagers staged several home invasions that targeted celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Orlando Bloom.  The robberies occurred back in 2010 and were a result of the teens, which included Nick Prugo, Rachel Lee, and Alexis Neiers seemingly being obsessed with all things celebrity.  They used information from the celebs own social networking accounts to determine when homes would be unoccupied, and then proceeded to steal the celebs personal possessions.  One of the many questions that Sales original article, which has since been expanded into a non-fiction book, and Sophia Copulla’s movie asks is what in our society has caused some people to become so fixated on the lives of celebrities and their own potential to possibly become a celebrity?

Social Media

Social Media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, have given fans unprecedented access to the lives of their favorite celebrities.  Celebs use these medias to connect with their fans, promote projects, and so on.  However, a downside may be that it can create a feeling of there being a relationship between fan and celeb that simply doesn’t exist.  The fact of the matter is, just because a celebrity like What Not to Wear’s Clinton Kelley or True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten replies or favorites my tweets does not make them my friend.  My, how I wish it did, but it does not.  Some fans may develop a tendency to read something into this that just isn’t there.  They may start to feel a connection with the celebrity that is, more or less, entirely one sided. 

Another downside of social media may also be that fans begin to feel that they have the right to know all about the private lives of our favorite celebrities.  While it can be argued that certain celebs, like Kim Kardashian, court this attention, many do prefer to keep their private lives private.  Unfortunately, fans have developed the idea that they deserve this information and have a right to it.  This can potentially lead to other issues, such as paparazzi’s stalking certain celebrities for that “money shot.”  It all goes back to that feeling of connection that develops when fans have such immediate virtual access to celebs.

Reality Television

Let’s face it:  reality television has made “celebrities” (and I use that term loosely) of people who arguably never deserved that kind of attention.  Like social media, it has served to make some people feel as though they have a front row seat to the lives of these reality television stars.  Again, the desire to know everything about these new breed of celebs can turn into an obsessive need to know everything about the celebs’ personal lives.  It turns in to a type of vicarious thrill. Sure, most fans do not take the extra step of breaking into their homes and stealing personal property.  However, it is also not particularly healthy that viewers are tuning in and giving the Kardashians, Real Housewives, etc an audience for their inanity.

It is also not healthy because it causes viewers to believe, perhaps rightfully, that they can become famous for essentially nothing, or, worse yet, seriously negative behavior!  Take the afore mentioned Bling Ring thieves.  Their names are now well known.  Neiers was the star of the E! reality show “Pretty Wild.” Was it because she had something to offer up to the world? Nope. Was she particularly talented? Not that I could tell (and I cannot believe I just admitted to having watched it). It was because she and her family were “characters.” I believe the only real claim to fame there was that Neier’s mother and friend had both posed for Playboy. Being on television undoubtedly fed into their negative behaviors and desire to be seen as “celebrities” in their own right. Once someone has that, it seems that it would be a very hard thing to give up.