Lindsay. Brittany. Brad and Angelina. Most people don’t need to know their last names to know exactly who these people are. But ask the average person to name just half of the members of the Supreme Court and you’ll likely not get a correct answer. Our culture is consumed with the desire for celebrity gossip. There are dozens of magazines and television shows devoted to documenting every second of the lives of celebrities. Is the obsession with celebrity culture harmless or does it come at a price?
I'd parse this one out a bit and say that interest in and fascination with celebrity can be harmless, while obsession is going to come with a cost. In the first case, celebrity fascination is little more than a continuation of the entertainment products that we associate with most celebrities (actors, musicians, comedians, etc.). In the second case however, we get into a troubling area of personal interest in people who are better left as personas.
I believe that the obsession with celebrity culture does come with a price. It borders on idol worship in many instances. It is an unhealthy focus on the lives of others, as if one is seeking to escape the reality of their own lives and what they can do to enhance their own lives. This is not always the case, but it is the case more often than people realize. I don't believe there is anything inherently wrong in following a favorite celebrity to understand them more, their profession more, and the productive, helpful initiatives they undertake - charitable and otherwise. The problem is when we become absorbed with every detail of their lives and every move they make. The problem is focusing too much on their lives and not enough on our own and how we can live vibrant, engaging lives suited to our interests, abilities, and concerns.
I do think that the celebrity culture is dangerous. There are too many people who become stalkers, include the paparazzi, so it can be literally dangerous. But it also sets up unrealistic expectations among people who want to be treated that way.
I cannot think it is harmless. You have but to walk down an inner city street in a major city and see youths and young adults who are acting, talking, walking and thinking like rappers or like their favorite TV situational "comedy" star to see that there is harm in the cult of celebrity. This layer of harm is directed at observers and goes much deeper tha surface behavior with a direct correlation to at least some of the horrific events that have occurred in schools in recent years and decades.
The other layer of harm is toward the targeted individuals. It is hard enough to battle drug and alcohol abuses (Lindsay), disappointed careers (Hugh Grant), newly launched careers (Susan Boyle), horrible marriages (Princess Dana, as herappleness points out) and family adjustments to child's birth (Brook Shields) without being the target of inappropriate attention and merciless hounding. These individuals, and others like them, might have had easier roads and happier results if it hadn't been for cult fixations. This is speculation, true, but it is fair to say that without unwarranted anxiety, pressure, fearfulness, uneasiness (to state it mildly), anyone has an easier time of it and performs and succeeds better in life, so the speculative conditional of the harm done to targeted person is overridden by real-life probability.
I would love to agree with post #2, but it unfortunately gives humans too much credit for being responsible thinkers. Unfortunately, the celebrity obsessed culture in conjunction with the technology-defined method of obtaining information results in repeated messages of irresponsibility, falling on ears and minds that have become numb to making intelligent decisions.
I simply cannot support the idea that when humans fill their minds repeatedly (consistently) with similar images, messages, and ideas, they can remain unaffected. Our culture is far too lazy to go unharmed.
A lot of it can be boiled down to this: when we repeatedly see beautiful, rich, and happy-looking people making the same mistakes over and over with little-to-no consequences for their actions, we begin to think less and less about the consequences of our own actions. We put a high price on beauty and money over everything else, and assume that if we can achieve either (or both) we are invincible.
It certainly has to come with a price. Just look at the case of Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed! The media obsession generated by the sole reason that these two well-known public figures were dating resulted in the possible involvement of the paparazzi in the horrid automobile accident that later killed both. Moreover, it was the yellow press who took pictures of the princess as she laid dying on the pavement. It is also well-documented that these pictures circulated through the Internet! Even if the paparazzi had not been directly involved in the car crash, they certainly propitiated a super-fast chase that ended up in the crash.
The obsession is growing even more, with "reality" shows now making average Americans into celebrities of their own kind. The more "celebrities" are generated, the more is fed to the yellow press, who stops at nothing to enter the private lives of public figures. Although many public figures openly welcome the press, and voluntarily over-expose themselves, the general idea that is being created is that it is OK to pry into the private lives of people, not only celebrities. That is what comes with a price; the behaviors that are learned from viewing how simple it is to invade the lives of others.
PS: Hyperlinks added inside the text for addt'l reference.
It is harmless. What is more, obsession with frivolity has always been with us. People have always been more interested in things like fashion and celebrity than with more important things. This is simply natural.
I also think that we worry too much about things like being able to name all the members of the Supreme Court. As someone who teaches government and history and such, I feel that this sort of trivializes these areas of study. When we harp on people not knowing this sort of thing, it takes focus away from what is really important. For example, I don't care if someone can name all 7 justices (that's a joke...) as long as they know what the role of the Court is in our government.
So, I don't worry about this. I think it's perfectly natural and I don't really think there is a major downside.