Celebrity Worship is a cancer on the body cultural, and has contributed to the coarsening of public discourse, the destruction of morality in private life, and the cheapening of the idea of the role model as an exemplar of success in society.
Until a few generations ago we had celebrities who for the most part kept their private lives private, and tried to present a relatively wholesome public persona, since their livelihoods depended on a public that wanted to see them as the best that America offered.
Were there exceptions? Of course! Lots and lots, and I am sure with minimal effort we could list dozens of actors and athletes and entertainers who failed at keeping the separation between public and private. They were no better than the public, and often were worse; with the privileges of fame came the obvious temptations…drug and alcohol abuse, avoidance of legal repercussions for their public behavior, sexual peccadilloes that often grew out of control and became sexual assault (the pretty phrase for rape).
But society tended to look down upon these deviations from the expected behavior, and our stars knew they could only go so far.
But now? We have hundreds of wannabe and actual celebrities clamoring for the spotlight via the various social media platforms, and no behavior is too outrageous to be their ticket to another bunch of followers and their 15 minutes of fame. Never mind that the behavior they exhibit is quintessentially amoral…fathering multiple children out of wedlock with multiple women (and then failing to pay child support!) seems to be the least offensive of these behaviors. Exposing the most tawdry details of their lives for personal gain is now the norm. Pornographic videos and photos anyone? They seem to be a badge of honor rather than an unappetizing and embarrassing exposure of their private lives.
And public behavior that in bygone years would have landed them in jail or gotten them fired is now an accepted mode of behavior. Conspicuous consumption at a night club, followed by beatings or shootings is just another night. Demanding special treatment by everyone…from restaurants and hotels to flight attendants is normal. And woe to the lowly employee who says no.
But the worst thing is the glorification of drug taking. Sure, years ago the use of drugs and alcohol was an open secret among the stars, but now it is in the open, and instead of being an object of ridicule, or at least opprobrium, it is accepted as normal. But a glance at the obituaries will show every year, dozens of these celebrities dead of overdoses or drug-induced car accidents, and there is no national outcry over their rampant and public drug use. When was the last time you heard a report of some famous idiot’s drug use that including explicit, or even implied criticism? And then there is the revolving door of rehab, which makes drug use seem rather benign. But it isn’t, and most Americans do not have access to the incredible resources available to these rich addicts.
So what, you say? Well, these are the people whose lives have been placed on a pedestal by our star-struck society. Our children look up to these people, and without societal push-back against their behavior they become the template against which our youth measures themselves. And without that push-back these people begin to believe that they can do no wrong, that everything they say and do is marvelous, and welcomed by their adoring fans. That’s how we get high school or college dropouts like Leonardo DeCaprio or George Clooney spouting off about complex scientific issues.
Impregnate lots of women (girls)? Sure! That’s what my football idols do!
Carry an illegal gun and have running gunfights because you were “disrespected? Damned straight!
Make a pron video and have it leaked? Look at me, look at me!
Take lots of drugs; behave horribly; almost die? Right to the talk-show circuit!
Find a pet issue and pontificate about it without any real understanding, and certainly without actually following through on the demands made on the filthy prols who buy your tickets? Huzzah!
It is long past time for society to wake up and see the malign affects of irresponsibly publicizing the sort of behavior that is damaging to the people who consume that publicity. Our children should be taught that drug use is bad. Our children should be taught that casual sex is corrosive to mind and body. Our children should be taught that respect for those around them is the mark of a good person. Our children should be taught that there is no substitute for hard work, when the alternative is debasing oneself for clicks and followers.
The next time some celebrity offs himself with an overdose of his preferred drug, the appropriate response should be…”Good. And at least he didn’t do it while driving.” There are Americans who struggle with the same issues as some of these celebrities; it is they who deserve our sympathy and care and attention, not some drug-addled, spoiled, pompous “star” who hasn’t heard the word “no” since he was six.
Excellent post. And let’s not overlook the millions of those who have poured into our country illegally, without vetting. How many of them are kids? Who would they be most likely to look up to and want to emulate?