One of the more underlying but consistent themes that I write about concerning celebrity culture is the rather demented nature of it. One does not have to look very hard to see that fame is hard on people. Celebrities lose a great deal of their privacy because we crave so much information about their private lives. While such stars may see fame as providing a way for them to argue for various favored causes, the very disordered nature of their lives and the fact that many of them respond to the pressures of fame in such maladaptive and self-destructive ways tends to undercut whatever credibility they would have as role models worth following. It is easy to recognize that the viewpoints of most stars on most subjects is rubbish. Yet this ought not to blind us to the fact that stars are as much victimized by the corrupt culture of our age as purveyors of that vile corruption. The fact that we view celebrities, self-professed artists and what-not, as being responsible for the spread of darkness should not disguise the fact that such people are often the victims of that darkness as well, making them disease carriers more than evil masterminds intent on destroying what is good and noble in contemporary culture, even if it does not change the result of their behavior.
One of the unfortunate aspects of fame is the way that it leads ordinary people to think that they know stars. This is not accidental. The very popularity of celebrities often results from the fact that their music and their persona, the mask they wear in public, is relatable to a large group of people. We imagine that a star, for all of their wealth and prestige, live lives not so different from our own, have feelings and thoughts and opinions not so different from our own, and have the same sorts of dreams and longings that we do, and we view them as objects of reverence and devotion. Such idolatry cannot help but cause problems as they are unfit to serve as religious figures or cultural figures of any degree of importance in our lives. Yet there is a mutual longing on the part of both stars and the general public that leads to this idolatry. People want non-demanding objects of worship that provide meaning and insight to life, and stars appreciate adulation and desire respect and have career ambitions, all of which require fans willing to put down money on their art.
A savvy reader will notice that in all this discussion there are people that we are not talking about so far, having focused mainly on stars and the general public. But they are not the only people involved in celebrity culture by a long shot. There are some people whose job it is to convey information about celebrities to the wider general culture, be they photographers or journalists or some other sort of figure that would be considered part of the press. This includes people in the news, or infotainment, or even people like myself who happen to write about others in a public fashion. The parasitic relationship of the celebrity press to celebrity culture, and the frequently ambivalent to antagonistic relationship between such people and celebrities is easy enough to recognize. It must also be admitted that such people who take photographs of or write pieces about stars expect and often realize some sort of gain for having written about people, and for being vultures who gather around the carcass.
And there are still others who profit as a result of celebrity culture as well, namely those in charge of the companies that produce and distribute the creative products of artists in a wide variety of ways. Such people often hold considerably more power than the other figures we have been talking about. They decide which artists and which creations to promote, offer contracts to fame-hungry people and groups that benefit the company and various producers first of all, and often the creative people involved little if at all. And let us not imagine that the exploitation of creative people by said companies is only financial, as many other sorts of exploitation are often involved as well, in the pressure that is put on people to act certain ways or make certain artistic choices, or to make themselves open to the gratification of the longings and desires of those in charge, especially where vulnerable people are involved in making what is produced by said companies and said people.
The end result is, as one might expect in a fallen world full of darkness, that no one comes out looking particularly well. All of us bear some responsibility for the torment that is suffered by people who are caught in the harsh glare of contemporary celebrity culture. Fame hungry people are themselves responsible for their foolishness in thinking that fame can pay off by providing a platform for people to promote that which is near and dear to their hearts, and profit in providing honor and respect and the opportunity for fortune and advancement. Ordinary fans are responsible for loading celebrities with weight that such fragile and fallible beings cannot bear, the weight of helping to make sense of our world and serving as role models to follow the example of in terms of behavior and worldview. And there are a whole host of parasitic hangers on to celebrity culture whose reportage, whose pressure, and whose exploitation of creative people exacerbates the torment and suffering of those whose desire for fame in the first place suggests that something went awry a long time ago, as indeed it did.