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.

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Why I Love to Hate Reality T.V.

ImageI admit it:  I tend to keep up with the Kardashians.  I despise what they stand for, but I can’t help myself.  I occasionally follow Dog and Beth as they go about Bounty Hunting people in Hawaii (and now across the country).  At the same time, I’m thinking he’s kind of an ignorant red neck.  Thanks to Operation Repo, I now know the average number of months you can be behind in your car payments before having it reposed (FYI, it’s 2-3).  Hardcore Pawn and Pawn Stars?  I am so there.  However, every time I watch these shows, I hate myself a little more.  This begs the question:  why have television viewers made reality television such a huge money maker?

I hate myself because I know deep down that it’s a waste of time.  I know that it’s slowly killing my brain cells.  I tell myself I should be reading a good book instead, and yet, here’s Kourtney and Kim Take Miami on E! again!  Why not watch Scott being a complete jerk; it’s hilarious!  Now, here’s Hardcore Pawn!  I hope that someone gets kicked out of the store for being utterly unreasonable.

Let’s face it, Reality T.V. makes us feel better about ourselves.  When we watch things like the Kardashian shows (which air almost non-stop on E!), it makes us think to ourselves Hey, at least I have a skill set.  At least I’m not famous for nothing!  When we see the criminals on Dog, The Bounty Hunter and the deadbeats on Operation Repo we enjoy a feeling of superiority because at least our lives aren’t THAT pathetic.  I made my car payment a couple weeks ago, so I have the right to sit in judgment!  I’m not getting thrown in jail, and you are! 

Also, we currently live in a society that makes us feel out of the loop if we don’t know the sex of Kim Kardashian’s baby the day it’s announced (It hasn’t been announced yet, right?  I’m not behind on my 24 hour news cycle, right?!).  People have started to feel like we have a right to know what’s going on in the private lives of others.  Even if you try and actively avoid engaging in this gossip, it’s hard.  If you just go to Yahoo! to do a quick search, you’re inundated with all the nonsense.

However, what do these things say about us?  Why should we need to watch the train wreak lives of the people on Hoarders:  Buried Alive?  Why do we need that to make us feel better about ourselves?  Why do we need to know which celebrity is dating which other celebrity?   We sit in judgment of Reality T.V., but many of us still don’t turn it off.  We, the viewers, are contributing to these people’s awful behavior because we are giving them an audience for it.  We’ve made it so that people can get famous for nothing, or for being a horrible human being. 

The fact of the matter is, unless we stop watching, they won’t stop filming:  It’s the law of supply and demand.