The increasing rise of celebrity culture is something that has dogged me since I awoke to the fact that media institutions, like Heat and OK magazine, are filling our minds with senseless waffle.
Having just watched Starsuckers, a documentary by Chris Atkins, on More4 that exposes our fixation on celebrities and how the media uses this for their own ends, it has reminded me of the kinds of people who want to work in the media – as well as those who feed off it.
From disgraceful stunts by PRs to fabricate news, to celebrity editors at tabloids (such as the Daily Mirror and The Sun) meeting people touting medical records on celebrities, to a Las Vegas-based couple grooming their son into a manufactured star by forcing him through a promotion-fest of a childhood, all of these were displayed in the documentary. It proved the, frankly, sickening lengths journalists, the paparazzi, PRs, businessman and politicians are willing to go to uphold the illusion of ‘celebrity’. By getting ordinary people to buy in to these figures, they can then have a huge influence on our actions.
But don’t think that I’ve been blind to such truths before this viewing. I’ve known for years that businesses and the media hope to exploit people by using celebrities. And this documentary, too, could be called into question, but it was pleasingly grownup enough to present alternative comments and corrections from those featured in the documentary.
For the record, I’m not against ‘icons’ as such, because we all have people and groups we look up to and don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. What is bad is children growing up with the mentality that being adored by millions, having piles of cash and poaching yourself a well known other half should be your eventual life goal. Unfortunately, the most obvious cause of this epidemic is the media. Their coverage of celebrities continues with production line efficiently, keeping the public in contact with their lives, their loves, their vices. Leaving little room for sensible thought.
Looking to the other side of the coin though, and as the documentary investigated itself, it’s not hard to make the jump from journalist or presenter to celebrity these days. This is something that doesn’t personally appeal to me. I don’t want to be alone, but I also don’t want to have thousands of people ‘following’ me. I believe, such a responsibility should only befall those with the modesty and maturity to deal with it – in the current media-driven Western world at least.
I sometimes wonder who some of my current course mates may become in future. Some of them may become PR managers. A few might go in to journalism and end up as the tabloid feature writers and celebrity reporters of tomorrow. Others might become the next generation of indie filmmakers that it’s cool to like. And a small section of them may become the next bimbo presenters, finding their natural home on the sets of Five News or E! Entertainment.
As far as my own status goes, I’m happy simply doing my job, having the respect of my family and friends, and maybe getting some unexpected appreciation from a reader from time to time. The thought of becoming another celebrity journalist scares me.
I don’t think Jeff Gerstmann, Adam Sessler or Veronica Belmont set out to become famous, but they can’t deny that their views on the world are now being listened to by a huge group of followers. So how would my views on the world and the way I write about it change if I were to become, say, the next Jeremy Clarkson, Charlie Brooker or N’Gai Croal? Right now that’s a thought almost as chilling as losing all memory of my childhood, because it’s something I’m certainly not ready for. And I hope it doesn’t come to pass.