In Defense of Celebrity Worship

Posted: March 14, 2012 in Celebrity, Children, Life, Opinion, Rant
Tags: , , , ,

I always watch the 5 O’clock news. A couple of weeks ago, I was watching the news and a report about the death of Davy Jones came on. No not the Squid-Guy from Pirates of the Caribbean but a member of the Monkees. My mom leaves the kitchen (she was actually in the kitchen, I’m not being sexist) and stands in front of the TV. She turns to me and does, “I had such a crush on him.” The look is what will stick in my memory though. My mother had looked at me like she had just heard about the death of the first boy she ever kissed or her first middle school crush. She had such emotion in her eyes for someone she had never even met. I have always thought those screaming girls trying to touch Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers were ridiculous and stupid. Now I have to live with the fact that my mom may have been one of those screaming girls’ forbearer.

There are certain days in my life that I remember clearly. There are the obvious ones like graduations, vacations, special dates, September 11th, and Obama’s inauguration. Then there are two days that I remember that I probably have no business remembering. I remember being 9. I remember sitting on my couch watching MTV. I remember hearing the little ditty that signaled that an MTV newsbreak was coming. I remember Kurt Loder coming on the television. I remember him announcing that Tupac Shakur had passed in the hospital away after being shot.  Now, since I was not a ghetto 9 year old, I did not have a large understanding of Tupac. That day inspired me to look into the life and art of Tupac Amaru Shakur, but there will be more on that later. The second day is a bit easier to recollect. I remember being at work. I remember getting a text. I remember other coworkers getting texts. I remember no one believing it. I remember getting off of work, going home, and turning on the news. I remember them announcing that Michael Jackson had died. I remember this as clear as day. Why are these days mixed in with other days that shaped my life and changed the world? I know when I get older, my kids and my grandkids are going to come home from school, well if school as we know it still exists, and ask me. For their homework, where I was and what I remember about 9/11 and the aftermath. I will recall that my mom woke me up early to tell me that something bad had happened. I will remember the school not letting us watch anything on TV. I will remember being scared. I will remember the decision to send troops to Afghanistan. I highly doubt that any teacher will send the future generations home with questions for their parents and grandparents about where they were when Tupac died.

See, I have an obsession with Tupac. He got me interested in rap music. He got me interested in Black history. He got me interested in activism, poetry, using words to actually mean something and being human. It took a while after his death but I slowly opened myself to the world of Tupac’s music and art. I tried to understand him and the people in his music. Being a kid from the suburbs, this opened my eyes to a world I didn’t even know existed. I even bought a shirt with Tupac on it. Now for a man to wear another man’s face on my chest, there has to be some love there. There are only three men I have shirts with their face on them. All of them can be identified by one name, Tupac, Kobe, and Obama. I loved Tupac. I watched movies, listened to music, and read books dealing with Tupac. Much like to many others, I elevated him to a sort of Thug Angel, like Michael Eric Dyson calls him. I even wrote my senior capstone paper on the connections between Tupac and the Civil Rights Movement. And here I was thinking that screaming girls had something wrong with them. I rationalized it by saying Tupac stood for something. My love for him is more substantial because there is something behind it, something besides looks.

Society hasn’t just started to worship celebrities. It may be more extreme now, but it is nothing new. The infatuation with celebrities is the common belief by not only us (the common folk), but also them (celebrities), that they are perfect. We see them on TV, hear them on the radio, or read their words and because of this all their actions have a sense of invincibility, a sense of perfection. We hear about all the money they make and fantasize about being them, but that is not why we watch. We watch to see them become human before our own eyes. We elevate them to godlike status and then watch as the human on the inside begins to crack the god on the outside. We watch as we realize even with all that money, they are still just bones and flesh. Even with everything at their disposal, they still make mistakes.  This is why Bono does not have the following that the Kardashians do. Bono does almost everything right. He uses his money and status to help. That is why people see Bono as pompous and arrogant. His actions seem almost nonhuman compared to others. This fallibility that even the celebrities show, it is why I can idolize a convicted sexual criminal (Tupac) and an alleged sexual predator (Michael Jackson). Their sins don’t kill them. They only make them human.

Look at Charlie Sheen. He suffered one of the most public downfalls in recent years. All those years of acting like a god, doing mountains of drugs and women caught up to him. All that WINNING was actually losing. Millions of people were caught up in his seeing that having tiger blood and being a Vatican assassin were slowly breaking his godlike persona. I was wrapped up on the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen, where he appeared more human and down to Earth than the roasters who were supposed to be bringing him down to Earth. Lindsay Lohan is another case. She is my celebrity crush. I saw Mean Girls seven times in theaters. It kills me to see her keep falling down the rabbit hole and not figuring out how to get back out. We don’t like to watch people fail. We like to watch people realize who they truly are.

See people like to say that kids do not have idols anymore. There are few people in the public realm who display the morals for children to look up to. If our society has come to the point where we are looking towards celebrities for role models, we may have gone too far. Celebrities can inspire us. They can speak to us with their performances and their words. They can help us escape the realities of the world. That being said, just because they are in the public eye, does not mean that they have a degree in manners and morals. If you want to complain that kids have no one to look up to, I have one thing to say to you, “Be the idol that you want your kids to have.” I want to go back to the days when elementary school kids would paint a picture of their grandparents and say they were their heroes. I miss the days when all kids wanted to be when they grew up was their dad or their mom. If there is a lack of idols in the world, it is because the parents and the older generations are not teaching their kids that celebrity worship is acceptable up to a point and not providing them with someone who is an idol. You may feel like you know your celebrity crush personally, but you don’t. So do you want your kids idol to be someone they don’t know?

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