We have a lovely little castle with proper history that has been nicely converted into a 5 star hotel and in fairness, many celebrities have indeed stayed there. Disappointingly I missed, by mere minutes, an afternoon with a very sociable Bruce Springsteen last summer. And so when it became clear that the newlyweds, “Kimye”, (we can nickname them now ‘cos they’re practically locals) flew into Cork airport, Castlemartyr was the obvious choice destination. So we all went mad looking to confirm that we were hosting new sparkly guests, albeit briefly. It was most entertaining!
Ah… people are so clever and witty!
East Cork Journal contacted me, and their reporter Seamus Whelehan had some questions for me regarding our global fascination with celebrity. Here’s our conversation:
Q: I was wondering if I could have some input from you regarding our fascination with celebratory. Why should we really care that Kimye are here?
Well, we shouldn’t care, technically, but the fact is that some of us do. Perhaps the word ‘curious’ is more appropriate here. We are innately curious about other people anyway, it’s an essential part of being social. Celebrities are sold to us as better versions of ourselves, and that is tantalising. We want to see what different looks like, and by seeing it, knowing more about it, we might even get a flavour of what it ‘feel’s like. It’s the closest to ‘experience’ we can get, without actually changing our own situations.
Are we trying to compensate for something lacking in our lives?
Perhaps, for some yes. For others it’s merely a curiosity and it ends there. The more obsessive we are about other people (famous or otherwise) the more likely it is that we feel we are missing something ourselves. That might be a tangible thing, like money, a relationship, a certain career, or an intangible thing like power, or happiness. More likely it is the intangibles that trigger us to look and obsessively fantasise outside of ourselves.
In my experience the happier we are, the less we look at magazines, the less we envy other people, and the less we complain about other people. But we focus on the tangibles like money, and then we say things like – “I’d be happy if I had as much money as XYZ”.
Not many of us go around saying “I’d be happy if I realised I’m good enough and stopped beating myself up by comparing myself to people about whom I know nothing”.
Even though that’s probably the truth.
Q: Is it just that humans are social beings and are naturally nosey?
Sometimes absolutely, yes.
Q: What is considered a healthy obsession? When does a healthy obsession become unhealthy?
Good questions. I suppose the phrase ‘healthy obsession’ is technically an oxymoron. A healthy interest in other people is usually a passing interest. Perhaps noting someone’s persona, noting that it is a persona, but carrying on as normal. If the person of interest has something interesting or useful to say we take it on, if it’s helpful and learn from them. But we remain intact. We remain ourselves.
An unhealthy obsession is characterised by constantly thinking about the person/s, wondering how they would react to our behaviour in certain situations, adapting our behaviour accordingly, changing our appearance in order to look like them, or look attractive to them, changing our accent, our opinions, in other words, losing our sense of self to match our idea of who they are.
Bear in mind that it is normal for teenagers to do pretty much all of the above and not be considered pathological – this usually passes and changes as we mature and change.
Q: When you love someone’s music is it right that you start loving the artist?
That depends on what you mean by ‘love’. Again, for teenagers it is entirely normal to believe that they have fallen in love with or have made a connection with a singer/ songwriter. I clearly remember a friend of mine (really, it was a friend;)) believing that Rickie from Deacon Blue was connected to her psychically!! Because his lyrics “spoke” to her. This is not uncommon, indeed you probably experienced that yourself Seamus?
Music has a particularly strong connection for us when we are teenagers, and we attach meaning to it and to the musicians very easily. It is transference and projection on a grand scale. We assign characteristics to complete strangers and that have no basis in fact and for which there is little to no evidence.
Q: Are celebrities role models that we look up to?
All well known people are role models that we consciously or otherwise look up to, yes. The younger we are, the more vulnerable we are to ‘being’ role modelled. The less confidence we have as adults again, the more vulnerable we are. But make no mistake, we are ALL vulnerable to role models. The entire media and advertising industry rests on, and profits from this very fact. We tend to copy other people, and often without awareness. How many of us say “cool” as an everyday word, when years ago it wasn’t on our language as anything other than to describe something slightly warmer than ‘cold’. Our American role models taught us that, albeit unintentionally.
Role models like anything else, can be healthy or otherwise.
Q: Some celebrities inspire us and others just frustrate us but what makes us worship them?
Again not everyone worships celebrities. Some people ‘worship’ celebrities simply because they are told to.
By that I mean repeated messages that everyone else cares will eventually seep through as “you should care too”. That, for example, is how fashion works, how we are persuaded to love bat wing tops one year and see them as revolting within a mere 12 months. Repeated exposure to any message makes us likely to believe that message. And that is why East Cork is littered with Election posters.
Depending on the type of media we access, we are exposed to different flavour of celebrity. If we are avid magazine readers and TV3 watchers, we will be more inclined to be aware of celebrities and be influenced by what they do, wear etc. Some people genuinely don’t care, because they do not expose themselves to celebrity soaked media.
Do they offer us an Escape from our own lives? Can it be just that simple?
Yes it can be that simple. Most people enjoy fantasy, we are lucky in that we are creative beings and can create an alternative world into which we can retreat if reality starts to bore us, or even hurt us. Imagining a whole different way of life is the ultimate fantasy. Lottery advertisers know this and use it to sell tickets – with great success!
Is our fascination with celebrity a relationship built on envy?
Sometimes yes – again, if we are unhappy, we might envy people we believe to be happier, to have more than we do, to have what we want. We can use this is an escape from reality. Rather than take responsibility for our own lives, we whine that other people are happier.
This makes us stuck.
Meanwhile, the object of our envy might be doing exactly the same thing, albeit from the comfort of their Lear jet.