Society’s fascination with the rich and famous is nothing new. Since the ancient days, the lives of famous people have always grabbed the attention of regular people, fixating them to near obsession.
In modern times, technology makes it easier for millions of people to follow the lives of celebrities. Through multiple channels in print and electric media and the internet, the details of Hollywood celebrity lives, from the most mundane to the glamorous red carpet events are readily available, fuelling the obsession with celebrity lifestyles. This obsession is perhaps demonstrated by hundreds of celebrity gossip magazines on sale, the cult following that celebrity reality TV shows command and the fact that the entertainment industry rakes in billions of dollars in profits every year. With celebrity news grabbing the top headlines above other important world news, it seems all these channels can hardly satisfy the huge appetite for celebrity gossip.
But why is Hollywood gossip so popular? Psychologists say that to the average person, Hollywood celebrities and other famous people seem to have the perfect life. They look glamorous in their expensive clothes and jewellery on TV and on the red carpet, live in large mansions, drive fancy cars and dine at expensive restaurants. They seem to have it all; money, fame and the fine things in life. Naturally, human beings aspire to enjoy the kind of success that comes with money, a good life and even fame and this may explain why the lives of celebrities appear surreal to the regular people.
At the personal level, successful celebrities who are also positive role models can inspire people who wish to have successful careers and influence like them. In addition, the seemingly ‘exciting’ lifestyles of these celebrities capture our imagination and keeping track of it may provide an escape from our ‘dull’ lives. It becomes easy to identify with our favourite celebrity lives, and we regard them as our imaginary ‘friends’ even though we know we will probably never meet them in real life.
Socially, celebrities often act as a common point of reference among people. As people with common interests socialize, they engage in celebrity gossip in the same way, for example, sports fans talk about their favourite subject when socializing. Celebrities therefore, enable people to bond and find a way to connect through common interests.
Psychologists also say that certain groups of people are more susceptible to obsession with celebrity gossip. Young people at the stage in life when they are in the process of establishing an identity often develop an obsession with their favourite celebrities and their lifestyles. Some unpleasant life events such as divorce and job loss and some character traits can also trigger obsession with celebrity gossip.
While celebrity gossip can play an essential role in entertainment, it can also be unhealthy. According to psychologists, catching up with what your favourite celebrities are up to can be a healthy pastime. It however, becomes a problem when it turns into celebrity worship syndrome, an addictive disorder characterized by an abnormal obsession with the details of celebrities’ lives. Celebrity stalkers often have this disorder. Like other addictions, this is a mental health disorder that can cause you to waste a lot of time reading about celebrity gossip. It also interferes with other aspects of lives and may need intervention.
What many people who are obsessed with celebrity gossip may not realize is that much of the glamor associated with celebrity lifestyle is a deliberate creation of the entertainment industry, which it markets cleverly to appeal to many people for the purpose of making profits.
Most of the consumers of this information also do not realize that celebrities too are human and are not immune to personal problems. In addition, fame sometimes comes at a heavy price. Being a celebrity involves having your life under scrutiny of the whole world and every move being watched; there is no privacy. Celebrities are vulnerable to stalking by obsessed fans, and when they have personal problems, the whole world will know about it.
It is interesting that celebrities are expected to be perfect, and the same public that worships them will readily tear them down when they react to provocation with anger, make a mistake or just seem too ‘normal.’
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