Did you catch the Academy Awards the other night? The wife and I joined some friends for an impromptu Oscar Party. (We all promised that if anyone made it to a major awards ceremony, all of us would be attending as a group!)
Is it just me, or has the notion of celebrity taken on a cult-like status in our country? Admittedly, I’d love it if the wife became famous and hit the big time in her acting career. But I couldn’t help confess to her the other day that I hoped she would have a “successful, fulfilling, and satisfying career as an anonymous B-list actress.” While we both laughed at my statement, I really do hope my redhead achieves great success without the accompanying zaniness that currently surrounds much of Hollywood. People today pay an insane amount of attention to celebrities. Why are they so important to us? What is with the fascination with celebrity?
Recently, I ran across an article on Time magazine’s website that left me scratching my head. Apparently, there’s a company in Austin, Texas that, for the hefty price of $1500, will provide you with four photographers who, for two hours, will chase you down and harass and photograph you as if you were a real life celebrity. Crowds will gather on the street as people stop, stare, and ask each other, “Who was that?”
This escalating fascination with celebrity reminds me of an article I read in graduate school by Dr. Philip Cushman, a psychologist at Berkeley, on the topic of the “empty self.” He states that “the empty self is filled up with consumer goods, calories, experiences, politicians, romantic partners, and empathetic therapists…[The empty self] experiences a significant absence of community, tradition, and shared meaning…a lack of personal conviction and worth, and it embodies the absence as a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger.”
One of the tell-tale signs that our culture is rampant with empty selves is the current obsession with celebrities. Well known people provide us with the opportunity to fill our empty souls with the drama surrounding their lavish lifestyles. Surely our hunger for drama points to the fact that we were made to live for something larger than ourselves. Without a transcendent purpose to life, the temptation to sign up for the cult of celebrity is hard to resist.