The Lies Of Celebrity Culture Must Be Noted

The Lies Of Celebrity Culture Must Be Noted

The spectacle is convincing, but celebrity culture's facade of wealth and ease, the illusion of intimacy, and lack of representation are not reality.

Mae McDermott

Worldbuilding has reached unmatched heights not only in film and TV but in celebrity culture. Movie studios and subsidiary celebrity-centered programs have mobilized their resources to transform the world around us so that it reflects their brands and actors positively and serves as fertile ground for their messages, and the result is the construction of what are essentially glittering alternate realities. We, the consumers, are berated by the worlds that have been built to pacify and attract us and attract us they do: 2018 studies show that the magazine with by far the largest audience second to ESPN The Magazine is People Magazine, which focuses on the lives of celebrities. But in the face of a world increasingly shaped by corporate forces beyond our control, it is vital to remember the truth about celebrity culture: this world of ease and perfection is entirely fabricated and does not represent our reality.

The seemingly perfect and glamorous world of celebrity culture is perfectly exemplified by late night talk shows, which create a facade of wealth and effortlessness. There is something treacherous about the talk show, which in spite of attempting to relay a sense of natural conversation, carefully controls the reactions of its guests using planned segments, pre-interviews, and warm-up comedians who may urge the audience to laugh louder so that the mics properly pick up their enthusiasm. The scenario indicates luxury—the host and guests have the time and money to blithely chat about delightfully inconsequential matters in fitted suits with a plucky sidekick at hand.

It would be dismissable if this were idle chatter, but there is sometimes a subversive affront to the viewers as the whole thing becomes as much an insult to the normal as it is a celebration of the rich. An extreme example is a British host Graham Norton's "Red Chair" segment, which challenges audience members to tell stories that, if too boring by A-list celebrity standards, result in the physical ejection of the storyteller out of the chair. Such segments emphasize that viewers are unexceptional and abundant—their lives are not interesting enough to command the glittering stage.

As startlingly insidious and paradoxical is the illusion of closeness between fan and celebrity. With endless online, print, and social media platforms focused on the dealings of the mega-rich, it is now possible to know more about these strangers' private lives than ever before. What ensues is a parasocial relationship or a relationship in which the illusion of directness via the hazy impersonality of such media results in one-sided interaction; the fan grows attached to the celebrity and the characters they portray and a quasi-social relationship is formed of which the other party is completely unaware.

Part of the closeness is derived from revealing, emotional art by some celebrities which forges connections with the consumer. But the time and emotion invested in these people are invested in the versions of them we gather from brief interview segments and questionnaires. They are strange friends we construct using the imagination, and this is part of the danger of worldbuilding. The pieces of these alternate realities, the stages, and scripts, must be provided to us, but we must suspend our disbelief and buy into consumption in order to solidify these strangers as friends.

Perhaps most deceiving is the sexual and ethnic makeup portrayed by celebrity culture, which can contribute to problematic body images. The demographics of our nation—50.8% female, 13.4% Black or African American, 18.1% Hispanic or Latino, and 3.8% LGBT—are hardly represented on-screen, let alone in Hollywood, where the struggles of trans artists and artists of color to gain recognition have recently gained greater publicity.

Representation is growing from the initiative of innovative creators, but the reality is that not everyone sees themselves in the celebrities receiving endless accolades. The world of the famous is exclusive, intentionally or systemically condemning most from joining in the low-cal water-sipping fun. Dr. Phillippa Diedrichs, an authority in body image research, says that children's media generally perpetuates appearance stereotypes, leading young people to develop unhealthy body image and low self-confidence. Therefore the exclusion displayed by the glossy celebrity world is not benign, but in fact sends clear messages to those who do not see themselves represented: they do not deserve to be seen. And thus we are reminded of perhaps the biggest lie of this manufactured world.

By fueling this paradoxical un-reality we perpetuate and fall victim to its falsehoods. It is the ultimate project in worldbuilding, in which the organization can depend upon the consumer to build the brand. But, in the face of any lie, we must struggle to find the truth: the world of celebrity culture is entirely fabricated, manufactured to appear glamorous and spectacular. A great spectacle is all it is.

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