Culture & Society

Science of Celebrity

Social Media enables us to edit together a specific version of ourselves, allowing us to exaggerate certain aspects of our lives and even hide the parts we do not want our followers to see. This article will explore the ways in which people do this, as well as the advantages and disadvantages which could potentially occur from doing so.

Even to those of us who are embarrassed to admit it, celebrity culture is alluring, and with it being everywhere, it is so hard to look away. Movie and television stars, singers, TV presenters, sports figures and business men and women all capture our attention, but why is this?

The interest in entertainment and personal details of other people’s lives has always been a part of culture, but it is worth noting that today it is overly prominent with celebrity’s faces being a part of our daily lives, without us really realising. Celebrity culture fuels our imagination, we don’t know any of these people personally, but it’s satisfying knowing so much about their lives when they know nothing about us. I think I can speak for most when I say that we find their lives desirable in every aspect, from receiving thousands of likes on Instagram, to having a fanbase who bow down to your every move, and praise you for everything you do. Even though the celebrities in question aren’t that special.

The media chugs out more celebrities every day, introducing new personas and faces constantly, meaning there are celebrities for everyone to follow, no matter what your interest is. This means that the term ‘celebrity’ is very loosely used nowadays. Famous people prior to this century used to gain fame from their talent or work in a specific area, such as music, sports, film or politics.

The word ‘celebrity’ used to conjure images of movie stars or popular singers, but this century has made people see celebrity as something else. The 21st century saw an expanding on celebrity culture, with celebrities becoming famous in different ways, including reality TV, such as Geordie Shore or Big Brother, or through the internet, through YouTube or other social media sites. The rise of Reality TV is a huge part of the increase in celebritization, from sharing the desirable lives of the rich and famous, to introducing us to new celebrities. This means a regular person, like you or me, can become famous, making it more desirable for young people to believe this goal can be more realistically achieved. It could be argued that this has had a negative effect on celebrity culture, because it isn’t what it used to be.

We can all think of celebrities who are famous for no reason, namely the Kardashians. Another prime example of this is Katie Hopkins, well known in the UK, but only for her controversial comments that keep her in the spotlight. People really will do anything to be famous, one viral video is all it takes nowadays. This allows the idea of becoming a celebrity more achievable, causing many younger people to set their sights on becoming famous one day, which isn’t really a good thing, the goal of being famous is replacing more traditional goals, which surely is just setting up a generation for a lifetime of feeling like a failure when their dreams don’t come true.

Also, fame isn’t what the media portrays it to be. We’ve all seen or heard of celebrity interviews in which they whine about being famous, explaining they can’t walk down the street without being recognised or chased by paparazzi. It may seem ridiculous to us to complain about such a thing, but we just see one side of the story, the more desirable, positive side that makes it seem so perfect.

Celebrity Culture is still a huge part of our everyday lives, whether we realise it or not. But at what point does our love of celebrity become dangerous? With the rise of social media, it’s easy for anyone to follow their favourite, or least favourite celebrities with just the click of a button. Celebrities all have their own following, with Justin Bieber having his ‘Beliebers’, One Direction having their ‘Directors’, which all seems harmless – but is it? While having these fanbases provides people with places of discussion with like-minded people and creates a sense of community, putting celebrities on pedestals can be damaging, especially to young people who dedicate their lives to these celebrities.

The media frames things to make the celebrity look perfect and desirable, while they could be the very opposite. We only see what the media shows us of these people, however it is hard to find the line between obsession and appreciation. For example, when fans were sending death threats and horrible messages to girls dating their favourite band member, the fact that so many fans will bully people online just because they are involved in their idols lives surely represents the fact that celebrity culture may have gone too far?

Of course, celebrity culture can be used in many ways and it isn’t all destructive, it can have positive effects on society and the consumer. Celebrities are looked up to as heroes, cultural commentators, charity spokespeople, which some could argue is a negative thing, but really it depends on the celebrity and how they use their voice. Some celebrities use their fame to do charity work and spread word about causes they believe in.

For example, there have been many campaigns that have thrived because of celebrity involvement, including the Ice Bucket Challenge, raising money for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). The cause raised over 100 million dollars, and celebrity culture had a huge part in raising so much money, as so many celebrities took part and spread the word. Emma Watson with HeForShe and Brie Larson, who is an advocate for sexual assault survivors, are both key examples of celebrities who use their fame and the celebrity culture to do something for the greater good. While some celebrities seem to have no clue that what they say and do does affect people, some celebrities embrace the responsibility that comes with their status, and those are the people we should be looking up to.

Which brings me to a slightly awkward conclusion. Celebrity Culture isn’t a good thing. But it’s also not necessarily a bad thing. While celebrity culture can be unhealthy in the wrong hands, if people have fame for a reason and they use the exposure they have wisely, it can be very powerful and positive. However, it needs to work both ways. Celebrities want privacy, but the media sells their private lives to please the consumer and make money. We’re stuck in the middle. We as a society care more about the lives of the celebrity and less about their work, so really, we need to work on caring less about celebrity culture, and then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.