Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Celebrity Pseudo-Events

As a general rule, I try to avoid celebrity gossip. Sometimes however it becomes so inflamed in our mass media (and social media), like an infected wound that I can't NOT notice it. A fantastic example of this is the upcoming British royal baby. A week ago I wasn't even aware that a member of the politically irrelevant aristocratic family was pregnant. Alongside U.S. Presidential elections this, or anything else to do with the British royal family, is one of the biggest pseudo events in western mass media. There will be a surge of children in the next year who will be given the same name as the royal child, memorabilia of the birth will be purchased with fervour, and many people will likely become emotional over the whole media furore. For what though? Does the birth of any baby have any effect on any lives outside of those in immediate contact with it?

Pseudo events from overseas, are given, even by people here in New Zealand far too much weight in my opinion. The lives and antics of American celebrities are truly of no significance to the realities of life here, but for some reason we are often expected to have an opinion on X's new dress, or Y's experimentation with drugs, or Z's new relationship, as if it mattered. I was recently asked what my thoughts were on Miley Cyrus' change of direction and latest music video. Uncannily, this happened to be one of the few things I had paid attention to, as it epitomises the Western celebrity culture. The video has had 77,785,230 views as of writing, 526,952 likes and 461,253 dislikes. What is even more fascinating than the fact that this change of direction is so polarising is the comments on the video. People seem to be physically angry, and feel betrayed by their idol/god. Comments such as "R.I.P. Hannah Montana" "This is so sad, it's disgusting", "lost all respect for Miley Cyrus", "Miley I miss the old you, you are a slut now I used to look up to you" are just a minuscule sample of the 600,000 comments on the video. So what did I reply when asked what my thoughts were? I said it was fantastic, in the sense that it exposes  the sad reality of celebrity infatuation, that people become so attached to manufactured images of celebrities, that when they break from the mould, or their flawed humanity is exposed, people become enraged. How dare they not live up to the mythical standards celebrity culture sets out for them!

This manufactured image rage is epitomised with Miley Cyrus, as a former Disney star, fans expected this sterilised packaged-for-sale safe-for-children image that is so prevalent in children's mass media. When illusions are shattered, as reality seeps through it is apparently devastating to people who seem to live in this fictitious celebrity world. As Chris Hedges wrote in 'Empire of Illusion', "Religious belief and practice are commonly transferred to the adoration of celebrities. Our culture builds temples to celebrities the way Romans did for divine emperors, ancestors, and household gods. We are a de facto polytheistic society. We engage in the same kind of primitive beliefs as older polytheistic cultures. In celebrity culture, the object is to get as close as possible to the celebrity. Relics of celebrities are coveted as magical talismans. ... The personal possessions of celebrities, from John F. Kennedy's gold golf clubs to dresses worn by Princess Diana... are cherished like relics of the dead among ancestor cults in Africa, Asia or the medieval Catholic Church. ... Those who become obsessed with celebrities often profess a personal relationship with them, not unlike the relationship a born-again Christian professes to have with Jesus. The hysteria thousands of mourners in London displayed for Princess Diana in 1997 was real, even if the public persona they were mourning was largely a creation of publicists and the mass media."

1 comment:

  1. As an employee of a magazine distributor, I see pointless celebrity information every day. I am dreading the birth of the Royal baby.