Celebrity Culture: More Harmful Than You Think
by Eliza Scharfstein on Friday, February 7th, 2014
On March 24, 2006, a new pop star was born— or, at least, a fake pop star. Her name was Hannah Montana, and she captured the eyes, ears, and afternoons of Disney Channel watchers nationwide. She was a spunky, fashionable, and sassy tween, but above all, she was relatable.
Somewhere along the line, however, innocent Miley changed drastically, and I’m not just talking about her hairstyle. Nowadays, Cyrus speaks openly about her drug use; even declaring that “weed is the best drug on earth” in an interview with Rolling Stone. Miley Cyrus is not the only case of good kid turned wild. Remember Lindsay Lohan? She transformed from a girl playing long lost twin sisters with pigtail braids to someone who, according to CNN, has spent over 250 days in rehab as of May 6th, 2013. On January 29th, ABC News reported that former teen talent Justin Bieber, pled not guilty to a DUI offense, as well as a couple of other accusations, despite supposedly admitting to recent drug and alcohol use.
Perhaps I’m not giving Hollywood enough credit. Many celebrities partake in charity and utilize their influential status to encourage their audiences to take action as well. Best of all, even the wild ones like Cyrus and Lohan possess a wonderful quality: the ability to entertain. By sharing their talents, they bring laughter, memories, social connection, and passion to our society.
Nevertheless, so many celebrity role models set questionable examples for their audiences: young minds who are bound to be attached if not influenced. Many fans stand by their favorite celebrities, no matter their actions. The Business Insider reported that some fans had decided to skip exams in response to the news about Bieber. When did loyalty to a celebrity turn into imitation of bad decisions? Cyrus, Lohan, Bieber, Spears, and the like possess a power that many parents surely envy. These celebrities have earned themselves the power of influence. Impressionable fans look up to these celebrities, but these people aren’t necessarily setting the best examples.
The power of reckless celebrities is a big issue, but it is not the only problem in Hollywood. Celebrity culture itself and its portrayal in the media is dangerous. Magazines, TV, and ads present a rigid and judgmental constraint for looks. While they may not explicitly say it, the media puts a huge focus on physical appearance. When I was doing research for this very article, I came across a headline on ABC News that read “Beyoncé’s Sexy, Revealing Grammys Dress Was a Size 2!” The reference to Beyonce’s dress size is not only an invasion of privacy, but the statement also insinuates that Beyonce’s body type is important and that we ought to measure up.
Countless magazine covers possess feature story titles such as People’s October 15, 2012 cover story— “40 & WOW!: How I lost 30 LBS!” The ever-present mention of thinness, I suspect, will prove unhealthy for countless teenagers and adults who will lose self-confidence and, unfortunately, possibly develop an unhealthy body image.
For days after award show nights, blogs and columnists critique every red-carpet walker, from their shoes, to their hair, to their clothes—to their nails! In OK! U.S.A.’s September 2, 2013 issue, the “fashion experts” weigh in on “Who Wore It Better?” The section compares two celebrities wearing the same clothing, picks a winner, and trashes on the loser. In one face-off, the critique reads “While Nicky’s studded bag is too dark and edgy for the look, Jessica’s personalized gold clutch adds kitsch without overpowering.” Mr. “Fashion Expert,” can’t you just let Nicky wear her “dark and edgy bag” in peace? The huge emphasis on judgment of style muddles both celebrities’ and the public’s ability to express themselves through fashion, and, in turn, surely lowers eager readers’ self esteem as well.
One might conclude that I have come to hate teen stars and despise reading these types of magazines, but in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I am aware of the negative influences on society, yet I still enjoy watching Hannah Montana reruns and get really excited when I buy a style magazine. We are an extremely impressionable society, but rather than allowing these celebrities to become role models, we ought to take in these celebrity stories while understanding the danger behind following suit. Struggling to transition from teen stardom to adulthood, these celebrities are accustomed to adulation and a never-ending flow of money in their very young years, thus resulting in very little impulse control and a lack of boundaries. Watch Miley twerk to “We Can’t Stop.” Jam out to some old-school Britney. But remember while these celebrities are excellent entertainers both on and off stage, they are not the role models we ought to look up to.
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