Our celebrity-obsessed society

Posted on Feb 15 2013 - 7:00am by Lacey Russell

In the past week, I’ve read news stories about Heidi Klum insuring her legs for millions of dollars, Rihanna not wearing makeup in her new video, Angelina Jolie’s kid’s acting career and how Kate Upton finds Antarctica’s weather to be not bikini-friendly.

OK, great.
There are two issues here I need to address.

First, that these are actual news stories in our media that continue to get written every day because there’s a demand for them, and second, that I continue to read them despite my rising level of self-hatred.

What is wrong with our society? Why are we so obsessed with the lives of celebrities, down to the most inane details?
It’s like I’m addicted to knowing about them, even though being openly jealous is an integral part of this one-sided relationship. I know I will never be able to get my hands on a $10,000 crocodile Hermes purse, but knowing that Kim Kardashian has one somehow interests me.
America, we hate them. But we also want to be them, and the media knows it.
If you read US Magazine, there is a recurring piece called “Celebrities are just like us!” in which pictures of celebrities doing everyday things like walking their dog, grocery shopping, picking up litter or drinking a latte appear in their pages every week.

It’s not the fact that celebrities are “just like us” that appeals to the public, it’s the hope that we, too, can be just like celebrities.
As a society, it’s pretty clear that we find the news of celebrities more interesting than actual news.

Perhaps it’s because talking about Ryan Gosling is a lot less polarizing than talking about politics, the environment or economic crises. The media recognizes that and reinforces it.
How many of you know that North Korea is causing drama with its miniature nuclear bomb, that the pope resigned and that Comcast is finishing its buyout of NBCUniversal from GE for $16.7 billion?
The rabid interest in celebrities is recent, and it’s gotten increasingly worse within the past decade.

Sure, movie stars and musicians have always been a topic of interest and gossip — think about the mystery surrounding Marilyn Monroe or the drama with Liz Taylor. But the Internet has made the lives of celebrities more immediate than ever, and that has fueled an obsession this country cannot get enough of.
Why do we care? I think delving into the everyday life of a celebrity appeals to people because it’s a means of escape.

Why wouldn’t a single mom living on welfare and minimum wage want to take a few moments to explore the life of someone richer than she could ever imagine?
Beyond that, there’s a level of Schadenfreude: knowing that even someone with millions of dollars, a giant home in Beverly Hills and access to anywhere in the world is probably still miserable being hounded by paparazzi is somewhat reassuring.

Don’t deny it. If that weren’t the truth, Perez Hilton and People Magazine would be out of business, and no one would care that Taylor Swift has let yet another relationship fall to ruins.
Maybe I’m ashamed that I read too much celebrity news. But then again, hearing the real news about recessions, guns and stagnant government is definitely more depressing than learning what Jennifer Lawrence plans to wear to the Oscars.

E.M. Tran is in her first year of M.F.A. graduate studies. She is from New Orleans, La. Follow her on Twitter @etran3.