Celebrity Worship: Sane?

By Taylor Uggla

After seeing footage of Anna Nicole Smith’s funeral on CBS News a few weeks ago, I began to wonder: Why is this being shown? Isn’t Entertainment Tonight enough? Shouldn’t I be watching real news?It’s not only Anna Nicole. A few months ago, I remember getting angry over some other form of celebrity gossip on the five o’clock news show. I don’t remember what it was exactly; I think it pertained to hair or million-dollar mansions-in a word, ridiculous.

Even entertainment news goes too far when you think about it. Why do we worship celebrities so much?

Think about it. We admire celebrities because we think they’re hot, or we want to be hot like them. This is why JLo’s behind has become so famous, and why millions of girls nationwide adopted the “Rachel” hair cut a few years back.

It’s kind of weird, and it led me to a think of a scary prospect: what would life be like if we worshipped everyday people at Macalester in the same way?

Imagine if you put up a 20- by 30- inch poster of your favorite school crush on your wall, or wore a T-shirt with his or her face plastered all over it. You might get a few weird looks, but how is this any different than what we do with celebrities? After all, they’re just people.

Picture yourself following the every move of your favorite Macalesterite.

Oh my god, did you see what Sarah was wearing today? I’ve got to have it. I heard she likes eating at Pad Thai. Maybe if I go there this Friday I can get a glimpse. I heard her favorite color was blue. Oh my god, that’s my favorite color! I think that means we’re soul mates.

You could write fan letters, too. “Dear John, I really liked your work in Spanish class today. You make my mind reel. Maybe the next time I’m hanging out around your window we could have a chat. By the way, what’s with calling Security on me?”

These scenarios might sound somewhat absurd, but in a way, much of the population acts this way towards the famous, and the number only increases if you put things on a less stalker-like level. After all, did we really go to Bateman Plaza on the 2004 Election Day for the sole reason of rallying spirit, or was it because Josh Hartnett and Sharon Stone were there? Why were there so many cameras clicking? Something tells me it wasn’t for the pure joy of capturing our first vote on film.

This obsession has a name. Psychologists have coined the term “celebrity worship syndrome,” and according to what I’ve read online, there are three stages: entertainment social, intense personal, and borderline pathological.

On a worship scale, the first equates with casual gossip, the second involves unrealistic connections and obsessive thought, and the third is stalker-like. In this last stage, a person not only falsely believes he or she has a relationship with the celebrity, but imagines taking risks for their beloved icon, valuing the celebrity’s gratitude over their own state of well-being. Perhaps this would be clearer in Macalester terms.

Level One: Did you hear about Jane and Todd’s breakup? I saw on Facebook that they ended their relationship, right after I finished reading all my friends’ wall conversations and posting pictures of myself looking pensively towards the ceiling.

Level Two: Did you catch Professor Dien’s lecture the other day? She’s totally my boo. Wanna know a secret? I’m the one.

Level Three: Did you see Hans in the weight room? I’d totally bring a cow up four flights of stairs for him if he asked. He finally got a haircut, so I swept up some of the clippings and made it into a pillow. We’re so involved.

Creepy, isn’t it? These examples may sound strange, but I find them to be no sillier than their celebrity worship equivalents. In fact, I hope they emphasize the sheer craziness of celebrity obsession.

It’s okay to admire someone for his or her talents. Normal conduct would be to discuss an actor’s great performance in a recent film, or to admire a fellow student’s weekend gig. What’s not normal is to obsess over a person, and I just don’t understand why we do it to celebrities. After all, you don’t start crying and screaming sweet nothings when some talented Mac hottie picks up a microphone, do you?

Worshipping any human being like that is just distasteful. We can gossip and admire, and I confess to an occasional purchase of People magazine, but the line between normal and absurd has been crossed a little too often in my opinion.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t news stations supposed to cover news? How would you feel if you got a Macalester Bulletin about the spiffy new jacket your professor wore last week?

Sure, that may be amusing, but it would also be ridiculous, and I am tired of it happening in real life with celebrities. They are people. We are people. Why put them on pedestals?