Illustrated by: Melody Wong

Celebrity Culture: The Good, the Bad and the Famous

In America, we do not have the Royals that model what it’s like to be a citizen — we have Hollywood for that. 

It is without debate that celebrities continue to have a huge impact on behavioral consumerism that’s tied to the broader social landscape and the rules set within it, but whether it was for the greater good — that’s when it starts to become a heated topic. The very debate of whether celebrities are good or not has become its own profitable market of discussion. 

So, where do we draw the line when discussing the purpose of celebrity culture? We must not ignore the topic, yet we add a little more clout into their name when we do. 

Let’s break down some terminology:

  • Clout (n.) – influence or power, especially in politics or business
  • Stan (adj.) – a very overzealous and obsessed fan of a celebrity/band/cast of a TV show or movie

Once the film industry started to repeat certain actors, we began to see Hollywood as a symbol of something that is “greater than life.” The people that acted out roles on TV weren’t seen as just people but as the icon for how we should look and strive to be as well. 

Here is where the bad comes in: we might have taken those roles too literally. Hollywood showed us many archetypes such as the blonde damsel in distress, the heroic man that saves the woman, the man that does not know what to do with his life but it’s okay because that’s the fun in the journey, and so on. Let’s not forget about the lack of positive and main-role representation from people of color too. All of these images represented by celebrities contributed to the stereotypes and identity crises that people faced throughout the years and modern times. 

Illustrated by: Melody Wong

Who claims these people celebrities though? Why can’t we just separate the art of TV and other visual media and not follow everything they represent as a life goal? 

This isn’t an argument like censorship on whether your kids should stop listening to explicit music because that is how they learn the foul language. This is meant to hold ourselves accountable for becoming stans of human beings. 

It’s one thing to really adore a portrayal from a certain person that acted out a part in a film or a singer who’s known for belting high notes all while dancing intricate choreography, and it is another to place these humans on such a high pedestal that we, as the persons in the audience, become uninterested in the current affairs of our daily lives and become overly obsessed with things that seem unrealistic in nature — all because it is behind a screen. 

Even news channels become victims to making the happenings of what goes on in our country’s affairs seem like a show that does not affect us at all — unless we get caught up in a heated debate about whether the politician was spending taxpayer dollars from their salary on expensive shoes or if it made them seem more professional because of it. 

It can be damaging to our personal expectations to obsess over the details of what the people behind screens and in the media do that make them “out of this world” or god-like, especially when that becomes inhumane. 

Over the years, even celebrities themselves have realized that they have expectations to gain from the audience. It must be difficult to feel like a person when you read headlines about your butt being too big and not big enough in another. How are you supposed to look anyway? 

The celebrity relies on the published media from the obsessed fan of exposing their daily lives, and the audience relies on the outcomes of what the celebrity will portray. It’s a cycle that we all contribute to as writers, photographers, spokespersons, artists, viewers, readers and editors. 

Once we read the headline, we know that it is impossible to please both sides. We then see the celebrity contradict our thoughts and overcome our expectations of what bodies can do with the help of surgeries and great editing. 

Every conformance to the importance of celebrity portrayal pushes us further away from focusing on going about your business as life was before the exposure of iconic people on the media — or so it was before straying away from the status quo became the new celebrity icon. 

To see someone with an unpolished look break their guitar on stage after a performance or flip off cameras in paparazzi photos be given similar praise as the airbrushed celebrity gave us some type of hope that we don’t have to conform to every expectation set by society.

Ironically enough, expectations are not given to us without a prompted example that has always been a celebrity in some way, shape or form. It even became a new celebrity goal to show that they are human too, such as hugging strangers in the audience, shopping at low-cost stores instead of designer stores and sharing stories about their life before fame. 

It is evident with the rise of humane portrayals in the media that we as the consumer are exhausted after decades of difficult-to-attain standards from celebrities. This is where the good of celebrity influence comes in. 

As consumers, we get caught up with the censored information and lack of transparency from producers, directors, editors and publicists who fluff up our idols into becoming an advertised celebrity, but we have also proven to have the ability to hold them accountable once it becomes inhumane. We are now seeing more POC, different body sizes and different languages in the mainstream. We’re even exposed to bigger issues going on in the world with the help of celebrities and our demands as an audience because we have expressed our need for this type of content. 

People no longer have to view advertisements of a drawing on a poster with two blonde kids enjoying ice cream in the back of their father’s shiny red Cadillac and wonder, “Why am I not that happy? Is it because I can’t afford a car or is it because I look nothing like those kids?” 

We can now see a real person portraying real life that can inspire us. We can see a woman of color play the role of a very skilled detective and believe that it can happen to any woman of color. This conditions our brains to see life this way as a normal and great thing rather than an absence of WOC in the media, risking us to think that they are only helpers in the background on TV and in real life. 

We can now see that politicians have serious things to say and that it’s important to keep up with current affairs because we see them in the media, how they live their lives and how it aligns with what they represent verbally.

It also exposes the politicians that we would have never known were actually doing more harm than good because we don’t just read about them in textbooks in the fifth grade, but we now get to see the lifestyle outside their offices and how it does not align with what they expect of us as citizens — so why should we accept what they say?

The overall exposure of the way others live their lives and the sharing of previously-unattainable information (before our idolized celebrities shared it on their big platforms) are how we have managed to do a lot of good and making up for the damage that was caused decades — and even centuries — ago because we didn’t have a positive portrayal of how life should be lived before. 

We can now see that scientists are just as cool as rockstars and we enjoy hearing them explain what we must do to preserve the biodiversity of our planet. By demanding more information and using our voice, we can now make celebrities be what we want them to be, not what they want us to think they are. 

Each time a person uses a media platform to share their voice and another person gives them clout, we create another celebrity and there is nothing wrong with sharing positive information or even negative information to cancel it out from getting miscommunicated. 

Much like my comparison of Hollywood to the Royal Family, people are always searching for examples of how to model good citizenship. Whether it’s our boss or our favorite singer, we are the ones that make celebrities out of people. They are just people at the end of the day, but once we see exemplary behavior that is more stimulating than the ones from people we encounter in our daily lives, we need to know more and more about their lives to reach that lifestyle. 

It’s not a bad thing to need archetypes to follow, but setting boundaries with the information censored behind the screen is important to allow people to know what is reality and what is an advertisement. 

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