This week the topic of pop celebrity and celebrity culture has come up a few times in conversation and in class, including the idolization of pop culture and famous people. Following the untimely death of Whitney Houston last weekend, a friend of mine didn’t understand why some people make such a big deal over the lives and deaths of celebrities. It got me thinking about it more and it is a bit of a mystery to me as well.
There are so many magazines devoted to the personal lives of celebrities. Sections in newspapers report news about who they’re dating or when they are spotted in public. There are TV shows like TMZ. On some level, they’re fascinating. Such as how they crumble under pressure. The personal lives of celebrities are, in itself, entertainment for many people. After finding fame by acting or singing, it’s what’s underneath that becomes fascinating and almost sickening as it reaches that certain level when the paparazzi are called in night and day to follow their every move.
But then comes the question of whether people are actually interested. I don’t know of anyone in particular that focuses on celebrity lifestyle enough to devote actual time and effort into reading tabloids and watching TMZ. We know what we know about them through general news stories that appear in the Entertainment section of the newspaper or what we see on Twitter. I’m of the belief that most people don’t actually care or follow to any degree the lives of celebrities. Instead, they mildly keep track of their outputs in movies or music, choosing to ignore everything else unless something really juicy comes out about a famous person we don’t care for.
Speaking from my own perspective, I personally have no interest in the lives of celebrities. Whether I like them or not. But I do have a pretty select list of celebrities who I do enjoy on a professional level. Singers I admire, actors I respect. I feel like there are some celebrities who you can get to know through their work and, if you become enough of a fan and follow them through their work, you develop an idea of what kind of person they might be. I’m sure in most cases, they aren’t what you imagine but over time, this idea of who they are in your mind is built up. Someone like Whitney Houston, who has been around for as long as she has, has had personal problems put out there for everyone to hear about, but who also earned the respect of her peers and fans alike through her singing and acting, and has had enough time as a celebrity for people to get to know her on their own terms. Hearing of her passing for a lot of people was like losing someone you know. Obviously it’s not a two-way relationship in the usual sense of the word. But in a different sense. The celebrity gives their work through song or film and in return, we give our time with admiration.