The Dangerous American Obsession: Why Are We So Fascinated With Fame?

The Dangerous American Obsession: Why Are We So Fascinated With Fame?
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Staying updated on the daily occurrences of celebrities has never been so easy. From Lady Gaga revealing she almost quit her music career to Gigi Hadid breaking up with Joe Jonas only to be photographed holding hands with Zayn Malik, it's clear that one story guaranteed to make headlines is anything having to do with celebrities.

Every week without fail, news outlets produce a story involving either an overpaid actress or an overhyped reality star--and no one can escape it. Yet despite the never ending barrage of talk shows, trending articles, and tabloids devoted to sharing the latest insights gleaned from the Kardashian clan, here's the interesting thing: the American public is fine with it. In fact, our consumption of all things celebrity is the very reason for the constant reporting on these very creatures.

It's time we talk about America's infatuation with the celebrity, that elusive class of elite superhumans, powered by glamor, glitz, and lots of cash. These mythical creatures have been bestowed an almighty status--indeed, viewed as an elite, separate species of their own--that have become a fixture in our society. We can't get enough of them! We want to know not only what they wore to their movie premiere, but also what they wore taking out the trash that same morning. We want to know about their weight issues, what they look like without make-up, the details of their latest breakup, their holiday recipes, and how we can look like them. Welcome to America: land of the free, home of the famous.

The celebrity serves as both an object of worship and of disgust, simultaneously representing what we strive to be and yet what we dislike most about ourselves and, by extension, society. Secluded in their bubble of wealth and beauty, the celebrity is most certainly not one of us--they don't even occupy the same realm. From this safe distance, we dissect this foreign species, gleefully pointing out their flaws: examining weight-gain, critiquing the bathing-suit pictures, ignoring the fact that we--the common American, peering in at this warped fantasy land from our own ordinary lives--could never stand such endless scrutiny and pressure. Yet we persist, as though the harsh criticism and body shaming endured by these celebrities (who, by the way, are almost always women) could result in some illusion of satisfaction or, perhaps, even superiority. In the public critiquing of such creatures, the American public is able to indulge in its disgruntled adoration--a mixture of jealous and disgust--of the celebrity, hating them for their perceived perfection, beauty and trim bodies, and the endless attention, money, and elegant clothing they receive--yet all the while wishing we were just like them.

Which brings me to my next point: the pursuit for fame. This rampant celebrity craze has manifested itself through technological devices and media, corrupting previously innocent youth to fixate on one omnipotent desire: to be famous. It is no longer unusual for young children, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, to respond with wishes for fame and fortune. What these children want to be famous for is unimportant; they simply want to be famous for it. And they are in luck: in today's society, being famous has never been so easy. With the help of social media, fame can be found through YouTube, Vine, and Instagram (and if that doesn't work, try the old fashioned way and leak a sex tape!). The higher number of subscribers, the higher likelihood for fame--except being Internet famous can quickly transform into real-world famous. Many a YouTube star has successfully evolved their Internet popularity into a mainstream-media takeover by appearing on popular magazine covers, designing clothing lines, staring on Dancing with the Stars, and even interviewing Barack Obama.

However, the side effects of this celebrity-obsessed culture leave much to be desired. With everyone intent on achieving their own fame--from fixating over the amount of Facebook likes to the reality shows filming rather average, albeit amusing, people--narcissism and self-importance is rampant. The "look at me" culture--best embodied by the infamous selfie--promotes an unhealthy way of life. Exhibitionism and extreme behavior, all in the name of fame, can be harmful and dangerous. Yet regardless of the cost, the fascination with feeling important and being at the center of attention continues to swell in our society, showing no sign of stopping. Buckle up--it's a long road ahead.

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