by Betsy Oda, Opinion Editor
Kim Kardashian wore what? Adele lost weight? Ryan Gosling can play the piano? Often we’re drawn to the habits and patterns of celebrities, but when does this curiosity turn to idolatry, and why are we so interested in the lives of complete strangers in the first place? With the recent Oscars awards, the current sociopolitical climate and the rise of the internet in a postmodern society, it’s easy to get sucked into a cesspool of celebrity gossip. Recently, a team of research psychologists with the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine recognized a psychiatric condition called “celebrity worship syndrome,” which ABC News defines as an “unhealthy interest in the lives of the rich and fabulous.”
According to assistant professor of Communication and Public Relations, Todd Wold, “an entire media industry now exists to serve the voracious market for celebrity news and gossip predicated on multiple forms of media exposure. It’s all tailor-made for addictive, idolatrous behaviors.”
In his book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, historian and social critic Daniel Boorstin said, “Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. We come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety.”
Boorstin defined a celebrity as “a person who is known for his well-knownness.” Heroes and celebrities refer to two different categories of people, and the threat of idolatry can creep in when we begin to blur the line that divides them. “[Boorstin] observed that an overabundance of image-driven media in mass culture was causing heroism to be replaced by celebrity—a trend that has only accelerated to this present moment,” said Wold.
It is important to keep in mind that looking up to those who are successful is natural and not necessarily a bad thing. Having someone inspire us towards our goals is a valuable aspect of human nature. However, it’s time to reevaluate our priorities when this healthy level of inspiration morphs into a subconscious and obsessive desire to know and/or mimic every aspect of a famous person’s life. As Christians, the only celebrity we should strive to be like in every area of our lives is the person of Jesus Christ. As author David Foster Wallace put it, “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”