Thursday, June 12, 2008
Are Celebrities the New Greek Gods?
The other day, while Googling myself (oh, come on, like you don't do it), I came across a link to one of my articles on Godlike Productions, a site for "UFOs, Conspiracy Theories, The Lunatic Fringe." The article in question was an interview with Jake Halpern, author of Fame Junkiesan amazing and under-acknowledged book on the American obsession with celebrity. In the interview, we discussed the bizarre nature of celebrity worship:
What makes someone pick Jennifer Lopez over Jesus as a dinner date?
I think a lot of it has to do with loneliness. The kids who described themselves as lonely and underappreciated were more likely to pick Paris Hilton or 50 Cent. The kids who were less lonely mostly picked Jesus.
Is celebrity worship the new religion? You profile a woman in the book named Marcy who lives and dies for Rod Stewart, but is also a born-again Christian.
Right, and I argue that she has different spiritual needs that are met by Jesus and by Rod. There's that great line where she says, "Jesus loves me just the way I am, whereas Rod loves the tall blondes." I think that what celebrities offer is a charismatic leader you can follow. You can make pilgrimages to their houses, to their concerts — there's a group of followers, zealots, who you can bond with. Marcy was getting a lot from Rod to fill a sort of spiritual void. The problem was that, as she pointed out, sometimes Rod didn't acknowledge her, and she'd feel crushed, whereas God is always around.
The "lunatic fringe" at Godlike Productions interpreted this to mean that Americans are unspeakably shallow and moronic. I interpret it as evidence of the powerful place religion holds in our psyches. But please, decide for yourself -- read the book, or check out the interview here.