Are Celebrities Truly As Such? Or Are They a Product of Our Obsessions?
One of the most cherished American values is ‘equality’. After all, people came to this country mainly to get away from a stratified, gentrified, classified European society. Here, in America, we are all supposed to be equal.
That is why I find it so difficult to understand our national obsession with celebrities. The word ‘royalty’ might not be an inappropriate term for what we have created here, a replacement for the Louis' of France, with their lavish palaces like Versailles, their courtiers, their gardens, dinners, balls, hunting parties etc. Instead, we now have the Oscars, the Hollywood parties, the nominations, the gossip columns, the incessant focus on a group of people that no one knows personally but everyone wants to know intimately. This obsession with celebrities has caused new words to appear in the English vocabulary.
Words like ‘Celebrititis’ (an obsession with people that are famous), ‘Celebriphilia’ (an abnormally intense desire to have a romantic relationship with a celebrity), ‘Celebrophobia’ (it either means the fear that celebrities have or the fear of meeting a celebrity. I am not sure). There must be more that I am not aware of.
The origin of the word ‘celebrity’ comes from the Latin ‘celebro’ which means: ‘to go to a frequently visited, populous place.’ In short, a person becomes a celebrity when enough people have paid attention to them. The first celebrities were the Greek Gods. Since the Greeks believed that their Gods had great influence on their lives they wanted to know more about them. This became the origin of Greek Mythology. If you read Homer, you can see how obsessed the Greeks were with their Gods. They gossiped and told the latest juicy stories about them. It was the Greek equivalent of the National Inquirer. I can imagine Greek teenage girls getting together and gossiping about Zeus’ latest affairs or whether Athena wore her toga shorter than the year before.
The next generation of celebrities were the Royalty of the European monarchies. If you didn’t know so and so at court, you were a nobody. The latest fashion trends, styles of dancing, music.. those were all set by the courts. Then, during the Renaissance, artists, writers and musicians became the celebrities. Actors were the last group to claim the title of celebrity. Believe it or not, until not too long ago, actors were slaves, and acting was considered a very lowly and undesirable profession. Robert Mitchum (one of the best Hollywood actors in my opinion), when interviewed about his career, said that he didn’t consider acting as a real profession: “you don’t make anything” he said. He had a lot more respect for carpenters than actors.Continued on the next page