I watched a documentary this weekend called Sellebrity on our culture’s increasing obsession with celebrity and how far the paparrazi go to get a photo of them and I have to say, it got me really fired up. In part because I feel bad for the celebrities themselves and the lack of fair treatment they get as human beings. It seems like, as a culture, we’ve stopped viewing celebrities as people (and the paparazzi most certainly have). Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people we’ve deemed celebrities who purposely sought out fame and adore their picture being taken and people talking about them. But then there’s the others who are just trying to do a job and entertain us whether it be by acting or singing and yes, the picture taking is certainly a part of that job they agreed to take on, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to have their private moments or be able to walk their kids to school without 10 cameras in their face.
The reason the documentary got me the most fired up though is because we, the people, are the ones largely responsible for the increasing obsession with celebrities and their lives. There wouldn’t be gossip blogs or hundreds of gossip magazines if there wasn’t a demand for them. Paparazzi wouldn’t be climbing over walls and gathering by the hundreds to get a picture of celebrities if they weren’t going to get a lot of money for the photo itself. I myself have contributed to this problem, I can’t deny it. I used to read Perez Hilton. I’ve read an US Weekly at the doctor’s office. I’ve opened that Yahoo! article that pops up about someone’s breakup. In recent years though, even before I watched this documentary, I’ve really tried to step away from all of the celebrity hoo ha and gossip. I’d be lying if I said that decision was in defense of the celebrities who are often victimized by it. It was mostly just because I decided to focus and to care about other much more important things. I decided to focus on improving myself and worrying about my own life and the people in it.
I understand some of us average Joes want an escape from our day-to-day grind sometimes and reading about celebrities can offer that escape. I certainly understand the fascination too. I saw Ryan Gosling in a store a long time ago and about peed my pants (TMI?). But I think there’s a big difference between fascination and respecting someone for their art and the work they do versus putting tons of energy into caring about the lives of people we don’t even know and contributing to the greater cultural obsession with the rich and famous.
The sad reality is so many of us are just obsessed with gossip in general. Think about your office. How much does the “who’s dating who” spread around there? How many lunches are spent talking crap about someone else in the office? How much energy is spent judging others you know? Gossip – celebrity or otherwise – is a sad part of our society so until we can stop it in our day-to-day lives, I don’t think there’s a chance anything will be able to be done to stop it when it concerns celebrities.
The problem with the paparazzi (and a lot of other issues in our society), comes right down to good old fashioned greed. The need to make money, money, money. The irony is they’re using people who have money in order to make some of their own. If we all weren’t so concerned with making money, with material things, with how we look and what we wear, then I think this obsession with celebrities would diminish greatly also. Of course we all want to be financially stable. Of course we all want to make a living for ourselves and for our families. But again, there’s a difference between that and being obsessed with having lots of money, fame, and material possessions (just look at the whole “Bling Ring” thing).
There are just so many better ways we could all be spending our money and our energy. If people used the $2 they spent on US Weekly and donated it to charity instead. If people focused all that energy they spend reading or gossiping about celebrities’ dating lives and what they’re wearing into helping feed the homeless, curing AIDS in Africa, helping in their community or celebrating the everyday heroes (soldiers, doctors, firemen, and scientists), imagine how much of a better world we all might live in? Or even just using that energy to improve yourself or the lives of your friends and family. We forget sometimes I think, how powerful we really can be as human beings, for good or for bad. So why not take that power and put it towards something positive for ourselves and for others?