The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Celebrity Worship and Idolatry

Who is most affected by the media and celebrity worship?  What is the underlying reason for us becoming hooked into this form of idolatry? Is it human nature or an illness?

Celebrity Worship Syndrome is an obsession, altering our perceptions and relationships with others. It affects 1/3 of the people here in the U.S.  Other countries where the film industry pulls as much of a draw also fall victim to this behavior.  Certainly not a new phenomenon, women and men alike have tried to follow examples of  those deemed superior all throughout history. It is, however, more prevalent than ever due to the abundance of mass media resources. All too often, tabloid news takes precedent over pertinent current events. Now, for instance, with all the unrest throughout the Mid East, world changing events unfolding before our eyes - Charlie Sheen's dilemma has been the main focus of many networks. Why? Because it sells.

We always hear about the negative effects of media on women. Unrealistic images, many Photoshopped, others representing the Creme de la Creme of those born with the "Cover Girl" genes or "the Look"  are constantly paraded before our eyes.

In its mildest forms, women will base their decisions for hairstyles and fashion wear on trends seen in Hollywood or on the the runways of Madison Avenue. Perhaps they may even enhance their looks with plastic surgery. Kept to a reasonable level there is nothing wrong with this. 

Women inherently want to create a good exterior package, and why not? Studies show men are most attracted to - visual content.

We may just want to increase our edge in a competitive world, where looks can play a big role in social and professional situations.

We may just want to feel our best, using them as a "model" of options to follow.

Others may go overboard, willing to go to any extent or cost to look like them. Cosmetic surgeons have catalogues of celebrity's photos to choose from so you can have their noses, their lips, even their breasts. There's even reality shows dedicated to being transformed into perfect carbon copies. Some may resort to unhealthy eating practices, endangering their health, in an endless battle to be thin (which for celebrities is usually below the normal range of BMI).

The media enjoys perpetuating stereotypes such as the "dumb blond". They show highly attractive women that lack any sign of intelligence, but are always able to attract men who don't take issue with all body, no brain.  This may hold true for some men during their younger, less mature years of dating; allowing for endless superficial, short lived relationships to proliferate.  However, once these same males grow up and seek marriage, their interests and priorities begin to change. Guided more by their heads and hearts and less by their hormones, they do tend to put more weight on a woman's personality, character and social abilities.

So is this syndrome unique to women? Not at all. It's just that guys tend to hide their insecurities and weaknesses more so than women out of fear of being unmanly. One look at Esquire, GQ, Men's Health, Ask Men and any bodybuilding magazine and you'll see how men can fall victim to the same brainwashing techniques as women. They are told that the successful men have a strong chiseled face and a six pack. They must wear stylish clothes and exude machismo in order to drive women wild.

Men fall prey, just as easily as women, to unhealthy practices including bulimia and anorexia, working out to excess, and taking steroids to live up to an image. They too will spend money to dress and look the part and even undergo massive amounts of plastic surgery. While some try to maintain a gentlemanly persona and simplicity, deep inside they may fear (thanks again to media hype), that women would perfer the "Bad Boy".

Throughout the history of film, the media has glorified the "Bad Boy". Whether Rhett Butler, James Dean or Humphrey Bogart; the Fonz, Harrison Ford or Russell Crowe; or Gerard Butler, Sean Penn and Robert Downy, Jr. women cannot help but be intrigued by the Alpha Male. This is the sort of guy you wouldn't want to bring home to meet your parents, unless you are in a rebellious mood.  No matter how much of a feminist stand we take, the "Bad Boys" and all their inappropriate behaviors make our pulses race and sexually arouse us. Again, maturity and the prospect of marriage changes our taste as we begin seeking a strong yet sensitive type, faithful and devoted with a great sense of humor instead.

So what about the guys who grew up watching James Bond 007? What sort of message did this send? Well first off, an English accent helps;  swaggering, dashing good looks accompanied by hair that doesn't fall out of place in spite of fiery explosions and falling out of planes is a must;  driving fast cars, motorcycles and the occasional tank irresponsibly is a basic skill requirement;  taking risks in the name of danger shows his adventurous spirit;  womanizing - a love them and leave them attitude with your needs always coming first before hers shows manliness;  when drinking make sure it's shaken not stirred;  abusive, dominating behavior is desired and expected; getting into violent fights with not only men but a constant onslaught of strong and beautiful women proves you are up to any challenge;  arrogance and cockiness makes you all the more desired;  all out general disobedience and disregard for rules proves who is boss;  behaving like a loose cannon gets every one's attention;  and strutting
one's masculinity, charms in a seductive nature is the key to getting the women to wait in line to jump into bed with you. Oh, and occasionally saving the world from destruction makes you the hero.

There are guys will try to model themselves after this image, and we women fall for it -  most at least once in their life.  Let's face it, if you are looking for a good time do you date the "Bad Boy" or the "Geek"?  That's a no brainer. Although this character is demonized, we ladies fantasize about it and the media knows it is our weakness.

Pierce Brosnan made four James Bond 007 movies, but was replaced because he was considered to be too romantic, too sensitive, and perhaps not "bad" enough for the role. I personally liked him the best, but that's just my taste. I dated on too many "bad boys" in my time, so the softer touch was far more appealing.

It's no surprise that men try to be "Bad Boys", just like we women try to be "Cover Girls". The media does indeed affect the way we act, dress, try to look and what lengths we are willing to go to fill the shoes of a prepackaged "perfection", no matter how unrealistic our hopes may be. We are a nation that begs to drink at the fountain of youth, worshipping it as the Greeks worshipped Adonis. We measure ourselves like a common products, according to marketing trends, what's "IN" and what sells on the news stands or Internet. We want what we cannot or should not have.  Some allow the seduction of Tinsel Town to create delusions of special connections to people we don't really know and have little chance of meeting. Fortunately, for many it's just a passing phase, until we become comfortable in our own skins. For some it becomes a serious obsession; one that can do more harm than good for ourselves and others, potentially leading us to behave in dangerous ways.

Are we just shallow and vain or are there deeper problems that lead us astray from being ourselves?

Sadly, all too often, people lose track of the line between reality and the prepackaged, altered images intended to sell a product. They think beloved "characters" are real people; that models "always look that way". They make false assumptions that if they look like the "STAR" that magically their lives will change, bringing them the same success, with or without the benefit of talent. The surge of reality TV is symptomatic of this growing syndrome, exploiting people who are fundamentally troubled (this applies
to both sexes)

Can this be changed or is it just human nature? Do the Divas relax and begin to worry more about inward beauty instead of outward appearance? Yes, in some cases. However, is this seen as a good thing? Not really.  Letting yourself go can have negative consequences on your relationship as well as your own well being. Do the Bad Boys become Cuddly Bears. Yes. Until midlife crisis hits and they dust off the old image and take it out for a ride.  This is not to say this is true for everyone.

If we work harder on building our self esteem, finding comfort in being ourselves, finding satisfaction in living your own life there is less chance that you will have to borrow someone else's to fill in the blanks. Enjoying entertainment is one thing. Admiring one's talent is fine. Even getting a rise in pulse from one of the so called "beautiful people" is acceptable. But trying to become them? That's a whole different ball game.

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