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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Celebrity gossip: the black plague of America

Published: January 18, 2013
Section: Opinions, Top Stories

The Golden Globes are less than a week behind us; the intrigue surrounding Kim Kardashian’s baby with Kanye West (or Kimye) is heating up; and The Bachelor’s new season just premiered. But even when it’s not awards season or the beginning of the new spring lineup, something is always happening in the celebrity world that catches our eye, demanding we pay attention to the drama unfolding in their lives.

Why is it that we are obsessed with celebrities? It goes beyond the well-placed magazine stands at the grocery checkout counter, into the heart of American culture.

So much of our obsession with celebrity gossip is perpetuated by and intertwined with the Internet. Yahoo seamlessly blends in actual news like the “FAA grounding the 787 Dreamliners” with celebrity news about how “JLo admits worries about young boyfriend.” By doing this, Yahoo elevates celebrity gossip and puts it on the same level as news that we should actually care about.

It’s easy to fall into the rabbit hole of celebrity gossip. In a time when we are over-stimulated by our computers and under-stimulated by its content, it’s painless to get lost in the pastel pink background of Perez Hilton and the “Who wore it better?” photo displays. The content inside People Magazine and Us Weekly is mind-numbing—filled with pretty pictures and terrible stories—which is the very reason we read it. It allows us to escape the minutia of our lives and delve into an alternative world filled with eye-candy.

While watching Downton Abbey this past summer, my mother and I were discussing how an English soap opera could be so very popular, as Days of our Lives and General Hospital ratings flounder. We threw out various ideas, but one of the more introspective reasons my mother gave to Downton Abbey’s high demand is because of the definitive class structure that ruled England at the show’s setting.

If your mother was a maid, chances were that you were going to end up in a similar position. If you father was an earl or baron, you were in luck and got to live a life of luxury. Class was strictly delineated. This, my mother thought, would be appealing to Americans because ever since childhood, we have been forced to pontificate on the “American Dream.” The most fervent desire within all American hearts is that we will one day rise up out of whatever mediocre socioeconomic class we find ourselves in, become wealthy and live in the lap of luxury as we deserve. So, while our parents toil day-in-and-day-out for the chance to achieve this far-fetched dream, we relish the moments where we can tune into Downton Abbey, suspend our disbelief for a solid hour and journey to a land where dreams of becoming wealthy and powerful were not believed to be achievable, unlike this present American culture.

It is for this reason, I believe, that we give a damn about celebrities. Celebrities have done what the American Dream tells us we all desire: Achieved wealth and fame. So we tune into the awards shows and the red carpet events, similar to when we watch Dowton Abbey, to take a break from our lives and indulge our desires. We believe that maybe one day it’ll be us in that Zac Posen gown, our picture on the cover of Us Weekly holding our newborn, our name in the “What’s Hot” column.

One of the more damaging consequences of our obsession with celebrities is the warped impressions they leave upon us. Thanks to the beach shots of various celebrity hotties, we are subliminally taught to believe that in order to be good-looking, guys have to have a clearly-defined six pack and girls need to weigh no more than 110 pounds. While it is not only from celebrity gossip that these stereotypes are derived, the same people who are celebrities make up our fashion, movie, and music culture—and that is where our stereotypes can be blamed.

This is sad. The truth is that if these celebrities didn’t have this much money, we wouldn’t really care about what goes on in their lives. No one is interested in the “starving artist” story. It’s only when that celebrity has signed the million-dollar contract, or starred in the latest “young adult” novel-to-movie plotline, that we begin to care.

The fact that we revere these celebrities and let them profit off of our reverence is just gross. Our nation’s prolonged interest in celebrity gossip illustrates how vapid we truly are.

Fame is a nasty beast, and although it may be the deepest desire in everyone’s hearts to one day be the next Jennifer Lawrence or JLo, we should perhaps resist temptation and bypass People Magazine next time we’re waiting in line at Hannaford. Because truly, when you purchase that magazine, all you’re doing is feeding into a degrading and distracting trend that is better left ignored.