Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Cult Of Celebrity

The cult of celebrity is something that has always been a mystery to me.  I don't understand it.  When someone becomes famous, it's almost the same as when someone passes away; they become imbued with qualities that they perhaps really did not possess.  It must be a psychological thing, a part of the human psyche, to admire people and put them onto an unrealistic pedestal.  It was said that Princess Diana became so overwhelmed with her own celebrity that she developed a "God complex" and felt she had the power to heal people.  She believed the touch of her hand, or her very presence, was enough to cure serious illnesses, to the annoyance of more than one doctor in the hospitals and clinics she visited.

I have never been a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey. I don't understand her cult following; it puzzles me. Oprah first began her career as a journalist and a talk show host. She interviewed people -- interesting people. But somewhere along the way the show started to be about her. Oprah almost became a religion. When she signed off the other day, folks were posting to her website:

"Your shows cleaned my soul and opened my heart every time. Thank you so much for wonderful TV-hours."

"I have seen a spot of light around you for all these years you were shining every sunset replacing sun's ray with your hopeful smile, spreading love and understanding all over the world, with your simplicity and humility."

"It is my opinion that Oprah, without children of her own, adopted the world as her children."

"I am so PROUD to be an Oprah believer. I have been watching, following, agreeing, and loving your agenda for years!"

"I remember when I was a child I would get angry with my mother because she had to watch "Oprah" and all I wanted to do was watch cartoons. Then as I got older, I realized that mother truly did know best and then "Oprah" turned into my little piece of heaven every day."

"Cleaned my soul"? ... "Ray of light"? ... "Adopted the world as her children?" ..."Little piece of heaven?" ..."Agenda?"

There are over 2,300 comments exactly like these, and they are downright frightening. She's a talk show host and a businesswoman, folks, not the Messiah.

The key to success seems to be to affect a persona and stick to it.  Get that persona out there until it permeates every corner of the media.  If you're famous, sheeple people will be devoted.

Oprah now has her own television network, and interestingly the acronym for her initials is OWN.  That frightens me even more.  I have watched a couple of the programs on her network, and it is more of the same "This is what Oprah believes, so you should believe it too".  Unfortunately, there are too many people who can't - or chose not to - think for themselves.  So, they are very easily influenced by someone who does their thinking for them.

In 1998 there was a movie called "The Truman Show" starring Jim Carrey. It was a movie about a long-running television program following a man's fictional life. The whole thing was set up in an elaborate TV studio, but Truman believed it was his real life. People all over the world had watched the show from Truman's infancy.  When Truman finally learned the truth and made his escape from the studio, the final scene put everything into perspective.  Two security guards were eating pizza and watching television:

First Guard: "You want another slice?"
Second Guard: "No, I'm OK."
First Guard: "What else is on?"
Second Guard: "Yeah, let's see what else is on."
First Guard: "Where's the TV guide?"

It's all up to you. Don't give these personalities more power than they deserve.  To you, they are like members of your family; they are in your homes every day.  But to them ~~ well, they have never even heard of you.  They're business people, and the only thing they really want from you is your business.

"Let's see what else is on..."

20 comments:

SparkleFarkle said...

"It's all up to you. Don't give these personalities more power than they deserve. To you, they are like members of your family; they are in your homes every day. But to them ~~ well, they have never even heard of you. They're business people, and the only thing they really want from you is your business."

You're kidding, right? You're not? Uh-oh. Well, in that case, I'll try to keep a grip on TV-things, here on my end. Lol!

Jo said...

Sparkle, you always crack me up. :-)

Carol said...

Again, you make perfect sense and we (some of us) do tend to let the media lead our lives...I think its called, "Get a life people!". Thanks for your eye opening comments.

Charlene said...

I don't watch reality shows because they are all about drama. Well, I did watch Amazing Race. I liked to see the places they go to and Kent and Vixyn were from Louisville.

At one time I watched Oprah every afternoon with those I worked with [I have cable at work]; not so much in recent years. It was a show unlike anything else until it became just the longest running show.

All that is unimportant to the point you make in your essay. Some years ago when CBS announced that the person appointed to run their news division was an entertainment executive, you could see the direction things would go. Now days it's entertainment politics. Broadcast news is important. Newspapers are important for the reason they have "traditionally" taken the time to research, confirm and get it right.

The day the public lets media know we will not stand for taking the easy road to broadcasting is the day we won't see the usual drivel.

KrippledWarrior said...

Oprah, who?

Jay said...

I have never beeen a believer myself. It always seemed like it was about "getting." Giving too certainly, but giving to others so they could "get" like we do. Consumerism , over productiopn , over consumption -yikes!

PhilipH said...

Hero worship. Never entered that temple. Never seen the Oprah show and I doubt I've missed anything.
Soaps, such as Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale have huge followings in the UK. People (mainly the ladies I have to say) become addicted. Easier to come off heroin than to miss an episode of 'Corrie' - but don't let my OH see this comment - she'd kill me.
My only hero was TARZAN. I longed to go and live in his tree house with Jane, Boy and Cheeta. It was so real; so exciting. Then I began to wear long trousers and realised it was just all fantasy. Nonsense.
I admire the unsung heroes of this life and world, such as people who take care of ailing relatives and that includes children who look after a parent who is stricken with illness. We seldom hear of life's REAL 'celebrities'.

Aunt Amelia's Attic said...

-chuckle- I never *got* Oprah either.

"Unfortunately, there are too many people who can't - or chose not to - think for themselves."

-sigh- Sooooooooooooooooo true. Just look at the '08 Election in the USA.

Bleahhhhhhhhhh...

Gentle hugs...

Carol E. said...

I do appreciate Oprah for some of the openness she provided to some very important subjects that had been unspeakable up til that point. But... her fame has also been her curse, IMO. When one can't step outside without adoring crowds oohing and ahhing over you, it changes your sense of yourself. I saw that in Oprah and didn't like it. I could only watch her sporadically after she became too full of herself.

Navigating Northward said...

I like your point of view! Pretty sad when people worship someone on a TV show.

June said...

Oh, she's just a celebrity, not the Second Coming and she isn't Adolph Hitler either. She's makin' money and God bless her. If I could do it, I would too. If she makes people happy, what's wrong with that?
I haven't watched the show more than a dozen times in all its years and I've never been to her website. If you dislike the whole thing so much, what were you doing there?

Jo said...

Carol, yes, media figures do start to have too much influence in our lives.

Charlene, yes! Television can be a two-way sword. It can entertain and inform, but it can also be an influence, either positive or negative. We have no control over what is coming into our homes.

Kurt, *heh*.

Jay, yes, Oprah started to get too "touchy feely" and all about "live your best life" -- but by whose definition?

Philip, oh yes, the unsung heroes. I don't understand the hero worship of Oprah Winfrey. Madame Curie maybe, but Oprah Winfrey...?

Aunt Amelia, yes, it is very easy (too easy) to influence people. All you have to do is convince them that "everyone else is doing it". People will follow along.

Carol, yes, she did become to full of herself. It was all about her. She had more fanfare when she signed off than Walter Cronkite did! My goodness.

Navigating Northward, yes, Oprah lost her focus. She bought into her own celebrity.

June, you sound angry. I don't like to make people angry, sorry. However, I think Oprah wielded too much influence that she was not qualified to wield. It's dangerous.

Andrew said...

I haven't watched TV in some 5 years. When I see some, like at the Dentist or visiting someone, it repulses me. I do like a movie now and then though, so call me a hypocrite.

June said...

No, I wasn't angry, really, and I'm sorry it came off that way. It's simply that I don't think society is in serious danger of falling prey to Oprah and her influence.

DJan said...

I wasn't an Oprah watcher, but I know lots of women who were and are devastated about her leaving. I wonder if these same people watch reality shows, which I just simply cannot stand. I am much more likely to sit down in front of the TV and watch an old NCIS rerun I've seen before. I like the characters.

Edward Yablonsky said...

Hero worship is an ancient phenomenon and exhibits a world craving apropos to a certain a certain set of individuals and psyches that find the reality sandwich doesd out daily and insensitively and out of context by the media to be unbearable. They desire to the core of their being the ideal world enshrined, yes in their idol whether it be Emperor worhsip which was formalized or medis hype with the clay idols of the present. Most of us grow out of this idol fantasy we subliminally foist on our psyches. Others do not want to ever "grow" spiritually and are encased in this idolatry and love it that way. I liked the below quote and find it quite apropos :
(The unsung heroes that deserve our passing notice receive the least notice, and that exhibits the modern patholo0gy in all of its unbalanced madness.)
PhilipH said...
Hero worship. Never entered that temple. Never seen the Oprah show and I doubt I've missed anything.
Soaps, such as Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale have huge followings in the UK. People (mainly the ladies I have to say) become addicted. Easier to come off heroin than to miss an episode of 'Corrie' - but don't let my OH see this comment - she'd kill me.
My only hero was TARZAN. I longed to go and live in his tree house with Jane, Boy and Cheeta. It was so real; so exciting. Then I began to wear long trousers and realised it was just all fantasy. Nonsense.
I admire the unsung heroes of this life and world, such as people who take care of ailing relatives and that includes children who look after a parent who is stricken with illness. We seldom hear of life's REAL 'celebrities'.

May 29, 2011 1:32 PM

heartinsanfrancisco said...

An excellent post, Jo! The voice of reason has increasingly become a small one crying in the wilderness as people desperately seek salvation in someone else's celebrity to avoid thinking of their own lives for an hour minus commercials.

A human kind of human said...

I cannot agree more.

Dianne Montgomery Hocut said...

When you put somebody on a pedestal...that really means you are lowering yourself...thanks Jo!

The pale observer said...

Jo! You are one of the only people who shares my EXACT opinion about Oprah and the ridiculousness that is her global cult following... I just don't get it and it has become a social crime to say you don't think Oprah is the greatest...

Thanks for that well needed critique, and for the breath of fresh air! :)