Celebrity Culture

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Being an avid fan of a bunch of music artists, like Justin Bieber and Maroon 5, I often find myself wondering why I’m so attached to these figures. Ever since I was a teenager, I have had posters put up on my room walls of the Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus. I would not only listen to their music on a daily basis, but would also defend their image when someone spoke against them. Today, at the age of 22, I think of the possible reasons for our attraction towards these beings and their accomplishments.

The celebrity culture is a fascinating field, intricately woven together using a variety of different media concepts. Some think of a celebrity as somewhat being a “human pseudo-event,” meaning that is isn’t something spontaneous or authentic. A pseudo-event is always pre-planned and created for the purpose of dissemination. A celebrity, through a public relations agent, is modified to show a certain image to the public. It is always planned, and spread out to become news. For instance, Justin Bieber dresses a certain way and has his music convey a certain message. Recently, Bieber has used his songs to show his love towards God. Demi Lovato used some of her songs to express what she went through emotionally.

A celebrity is basically someone known for his/her well-knownness, as said by Daniel Boorstin, a media studies researcher. He thinks that they do not need to be heroes or great men. They can be created overnight (for example Kelly Clarkson on American Idol). While this is accurate today thanks to the various platforms of media: the internet, the tabloids, newspapers, TV, it is not entirely true. A celebrity is also someone that has a narrative to provide to the people. In a culture completely driven by the need to look upto “role models” and be successful like celebrities, any interesting narrative catches our eyes. We are more interested in who Brad Pitt was dating earlier, as opposed to which charity he helped out. We have extravagant expectations from these people, and this is the reason why we feel so connected to them.

This leads me to the idea of a parasocial relationship that we develop with the celebrities of our liking. This type of relationship is often imaginary and one-sided. We feel deeply connected to the person, but in reality the celebrity doesn't even know who we are. Therefore, sometimes we connect these parasocial relationships to fandoms and fanships.

I still remember the day Michael Jackson died. It was June 25, 2009. I was heading to school when my friends told me about it. Why did his death affect me so much? After all, I didn’t even know him personally. After all these years, I’ve come to realize that the death of the legendary pop sensation was connected to my memories with loved ones. I always danced to Thriller with my little brother at my birthday party; it was like a tradition. Therefore, I associated the loss of MJ with the loss of my happy memory. It turned out that the mourning highlighted the role of a third person in my life.

This is why I feel that we use social media to stay connected to our celebrities. We encounter different people who feel the same way, and we get this sense of belongingness. Social media turns out to be more powerful than we have anticipated. It’s strong presence in our lives has helped shape our undying love for celebrities.

-       Shreya Shah