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Just Another Train Wreck

The Empty Stage

The Empty Stage

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

Connection with talent permeates all.

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

The Merriam-Webster logo.

Defined by Merriam Webster.

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.

Stalking

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.

Example

Athletic talent is no indicator of character or lack thereof.

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.

Introspection

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.

Surrogacy

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
  • Uncertainty
  • Guilt

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.

Reality

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
Reblogging of this or any other post on The M3 Blog
is expressly forbidden.

Copyright and Privacy Policy available in The Office.



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41 Comments

  1. Speaking of athletes, there was a piece in the NY Times today about NY NBA player who isn’t a full-fledged player for the team yet, but the point was that it was so unusual to see an athlete who was a graduate of Harvard.

    I still say that celebrity worship is definitely borne of envy, but of a refusal to want to deal with their own life problems. Bear had a great analogy.

    Reply
  2. I am not sure why, but this once again affirms the reality of how vain popularity seeking really is. When people have talent they should use it. But, somewhere that fame gets in their head and messes with them. Maybe I am just bitter because I wasn’t popular as a kid 🙂

    Reply
    • I doubt it, Derek. Popularity seeking is terrifically vain. Talents, when applied, gather their own following, which only wanes in the loss of or the end of using the talent. Very few people attain infamy, even posthumously. I am going to count you in the fame-attached-neurotic bunch. Hmm. A slightly different slice.

      Reply
  3. Celebrities are put onto a high platform and are often seen as invincible and immune from death. The public is shocked when the celebrity is diagnosed with a medical illness or passes away unexpectedly, as happened only a short while ago. Again. Perhaps people want someone to look up to, craving role models and living vicariously through celebrity lives. When those lives take on characteristics that match our own perhaps it makes them too real.

    Reply
    • I suppose that is where I lose the entire concept…too real. I do not believe in too real. *sigh*

      Reply
  4. First: I was truly devastated when the 2nd greyhound to the left died suddenly from crack laced Alpo. So tragic.
    Second: We become so mesmerized and desensitized to anything and anyone splashed all over the news or entertaiment channels on a regular basis.
    Thirdly: We disconnect too easily because it’s hard to relate to someone, who in your mind (money, fame) is so far from being like you. We assume their problems, worries, pains and struggles are surmountable due to their success and we have little compassion.
    Fourthly: It’s just plain sad.

    Reply
    • Interesting you bring up lack of compassion. I like that.

      You can make a donation in his name to the Greyhound Rescue Foundation. They take cash, checks, credit cards and rain checks for dog food.

      Reply
      • Seriously, we had 2 greyhounds from the rescue foundation. They have been gone for years though. No cracked laced dog food. Cancer and old age. I swear.

        Reply
        • Very few of the animals we have are anything except rescues…or descendants of rescues. Cancer is common, but old age is not in greyhounds…Good on you.

          Reply
  5. You’ve got some deep thoughts here, Red, and some deep thinkers contributing comments as well. I only have a minute as I’m cracking the whip on deadlines today…. so I’m going to ride right across the surface of this whole thing! My two itsy bitsy cents:

    1. I am a fan (admirer) of many and yet I envy few. I love listening to talented musicians and singers. But other than wishing on a star from time to time for a voice that matches my singing-in-the-shower ambitions, there is really nothing more. I don’t think that being a fan is synonymous with desire.

    2. Fame, fortune, success, and paparazzi do mess with people’s minds. I firmly believe that many have the talent and hutzpa to become famous, but only a fraction of those have what it takes to deal with the onslaught of money, tabloid teasing, slander, stalkers, availability of substances, the desire to look perfect for the camera, the sudden lack of clear goals once you have “arrived” (… then what?), and so on. What wants it?

    Those with a strong inner light adjust, contribute to society, make things happen in the world that only those with great resources of talent or finances can make happen… and the rest struggle under the very heavy and sometimes lethal weight of what grew from a simple desire to act, dance, sing or be on stage.

    Reply
  6. Excellent post Red. I always struggle to understand the importance people attach to so called celebrities. The ridiculously high money they earn, the fame & hero worship they recieve from their fans, the extremely extravagant lifestyles & for what??? They make movies, tv shows, sing or play music or sport. So what???
    Big deal….
    How does that compare with truck drivers, teachers, tradesmen, emergency services workers, shop staff, farmers & factory labourers, the list goes on & on.
    Real people who provide services that communities need to survive day after day. People who really matter. But does the world & media care when Bill the Plumber’s marriage breaks up??? Or one of these ordinary everyday people who contribute to society passes away???.
    Of course not.
    So many celebrities have these dramatic lives that are always in the media because of their own stupid choices. A nobody dies of a drug overdose & who cares. A celebrity does the same thing & the world goes into an emotional chaos. Look at all the nonsense over Michael Jackson’s death.
    I better stop now before I write a longer comment than your post. Celebrities are just one of those things that really get my goat.

    It’s ok now, I’m calm, I’m calm…

    Reply
    • I am with you, Tony. This series has been really enlightening for me on many different fronts. I think the vehement support one person gave me may feature in a future portion of this exploration.

      It is truly sad we do not recognize the service people in a more appropriate way. The imbalance of how we treat and value talent is racially disheartening. (Since you are new, the race is the human race.)

      And do not feel as though you need to curb yourself here. We often have discussions where the comments outweigh the posts. We even have days where we do it on purpose. Check out our #TalkTuesday!

      Reply
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