With the death of another entertainer, social media is filled with emotional people from around the world pouring out equal measures of heart-wrenching agony and abusive vitriol. This behavior just brings more questions than it does answers. What is it about celebrity or talent which makes people this emotional?
Cult of Celebrity
Each of us has inherent worth. Others may or may not see that worth as applicable in their day-to-day existences, but it does not diminish the presence of that worth. When groups can gather and share the appreciation of someone’s worth as a common ground between them, celebrity is born.
In this version of idolatry, groupies elevate a celebrity to a plane of existence on which mere mortals cannot exist in their natural state. The object of worth is less the person than it is the talent the celebrity possesses. In the exaltation of talent, confusion sets in when the talent is seen as the definition of who the celebrity is. The idolatry becomes jealousy.
The Green-Eyed Monster
Jealousy is also defined as zealous vigilance. This is not the widely accepted version jealousy (which is envy, not jealousy) of the schoolyard where someone has one better than the one we have, but it is the intellectual jealousy of the celebrity holding a responsibility for maintaining the connection we have to the talent. It goes hand-in-hand with being a fan, which is short for fanatic:
marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion” ~Merriam Webster.
The recognition of a talent is laudable; however, when we associate ourselves with the talent in terms of its influence over us, we create jealousy.
It is the neurosis seen in stalkers who create a bond with the object of their stalking. They imagine relationships where none exist and read into their objects messages which simply are not there. A stalker will take a direct look into the camera as the object communicating directly.
The romanticized image of the celebrity emerges because the only access the fan has to the celebrity is through the talent. A fan cannot identify with the mundane humanity of the celebrity solely on a lack of access.
Athletes are often celebrities. An athlete’s talent on the field is recognized, publicized and draws fanaticism. Fans only associate the celebrity, the person, with the athletic achievements. The fan ceases to see the athlete as a human or creates a paragon of virtue built entirely on athletic ability. In failing to see the human frailty which the athlete innately possesses, jealousy is exercised: zealous vigilance.
To invest emotional capital into celebrity, a person with whom no meaningful personal contact is realized, fans substitute performance for personality.
The vigilance is as much about the fan as it is about the celebrity. The fan sees in Self either a connection or a division between Self and Celebrity.
- Celebrity represents what Fan was/is/wants to be.
- Celebrity has talent in excess/less than Fan.
- Celebrity has been recognized where Fan has not.
- Fan sees a desire fulfilled in Celebrity’s talent which Self knows is unfeasible for Fan to pursue.
Celebrity’s talent makes Fan look at Self. Sometimes, Celebrity’s talent allows Fan to not look at Self.
All of us live vicariously through others. Since we each possess different talents or varying degrees of similar talents, we observe others and revel in, or despise, the experiences of others. Celebrity has something Fan does not: Advantage.
Whether it is the discovering agent, money, entourage or merely recognition, Celebrity has an advantage Fan does not. Enter classic definition of jealousy. In an effort to mask the pettiness of schoolyard envy, Fan exercises fanaticism. Rather than be willing to accept Celebrity is just as human, Fan creates an unreasonable perception of the person Celebrity is to explain the advantage without disparaging Self.
Instead of attributing the recognition of talent as a simple (or intricately orchestrated) set of circumstances where talent was positioned to be recognized and promoted, Fan creates a person free of all obstacles Fan sees to Self being Celebrity:
- Inadequacy of formal training
- Lack of devotion to pursue talent
- Fear of rejection
- Lack of ambition
- Fear of failure
- Emotional immaturity
Fan sees Celebrity free of the foibles of Self, crediting Celebrity with the inhuman feat of overcoming human frailty. (“often intense uncritical devotion”) In the failure to be critical, Fan fails to recognize Celebrity has the same potential as Self to fail at pursuits beyond the talent.
No one is free of human frailty. No one is single-faceted. No one is defined merely by one of their talents. No talent can supersede humanness. No recognition for talent can satisfy the human need for acceptance…not for the fan or for the celebrity.
How can we more realistically recognize talent without substituting it for genuine self-realization? Why do we, as a society, fail to see the human nature present in the most talented among us? If not merely self-preservation, why do we fail to assign celebrities human frailty?
Author’s Note: Please forgive the train wreck. This is a series which is still in development, but which has become timely. It is not the author’s intent this series be associated with any celebrity in particular, but rather Celebrity be the public figure to which the reader feels most closely associated.
The outline above is the basis for an exploration into identity security in the face of human frailty. In no way, has the topic been adequately or thoroughly defined or discussed.
Please explore and ask questions as they occur, rather than the ones you believe are 100% relevant. You will help best determine where this series will ultimately end.
© Red Dwyer 2012
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