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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Duke chapter.

I don’t know about you, but I have always wondered why people are so obsessed with celebrities. Even at a young age, I thought about the implications of stardom. I have a vivid memory of my 11-year-old self eating lunch next to my favorite camp counselor, positing a theory on the pitfalls of being a childhood celebrity, arguing fervently how the position of these children is dreadfully unfortunate. As I’ve aged, my ideas and interests have evolved, yet I’m still fascinated by these cultural gods. I find myself wondering: how in the world do reality TV shows about one family run for decades? How does an industry full of people no different from you or I, racket in millions, maybe billions a year? 

I understand the importance of admiration for those with great talent. Just as Stephen Hawking and Leonardo da Vinci deserve admiration, so do those with thespian and musical gifts. There is much to learn from the exceptionally gifted. However, what I find strange is that you don’t see people watching “Day in the Life” videos of Nobel Prize laureates. You don’t see philosophers playing “True Confessions” on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. It is easier to learn about pop music than theoretical physics, but nonetheless, I do find the extent that we are interested in celebrities perplexing. It seems that people care much more about celebrities’ lives than their craft. What is it about celebrities that makes Americans spend hours of their days obsessing over them? Why is it that celebrities fill the pages of newspapers and feeds of social media users?

Maybe it’s the innate need for connection that drives this desire for knowledge. Today, it is unlikely that you could strike up a conversation about Einstein with a random stranger, but on the other hand, I would argue that Kim Kardashian would be a hot topic at most dinner tables. So maybe, keeping up with pop culture is an attempt to relate to others. It’s a lot easier to find a pop culture discussion topic compared to other fields. Keeping up with new releases allows you to connect with ease. Furthermore, in a sense, celebrities function as universal small town gossip. Rather than being limited to neighborhood gossip about Olivia C.’s new boyfriend, you can talk about rising star Olivia Rodrigo’s love life with just about anyone these days.

To continue, there’s a possibility that what people seek from Hollywood is also what many seek from novels, stories, and movies. Human beings crave narrative. Stories about fictional people teach us volumes about the meaning of life. Perhaps, stories about real people have the same appeal. Celebrities’ position as larger than life figures allows people to assess, analyze, prode, critique, and defend celebrities much like they do for their favorite movie characters. We treat celebrities like our personal social experiments. It’s okay, though. Celebrities aren’t real people, right? After all, they’re beautiful with perfect bodies and hair. Who wouldn’t want to emulate someone with 5% body fat and an amazing sense of humor?

But maybe, it’s more about the human desire for reverence. Throughout history, people have looked to a higher power for guidance on how to live. Perhaps, celebrity culture today serves as a pseudo-atheist bible. If you aren’t told by your religious leaders what you can and can’t eat, then you might as well look at an Insta baddie’s feed for diet plans.

For whatever reason, may it be sociability or the desire to understand the nuances of human behavior, celebrities are part of our cultural framework. The reason I felt motivated to write this article is because I am also captivated by celebrities. Maybe this isn’t what you thought you were getting into when you opened an article about celebrities, but stars are more than photoshoots and fashion weeks; they represent something greater about humanity. 

With that being said: can we please talk about Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson?

Rachel Kamis is a second-year trinity student studying psychology and cultural anthropology.