In our society, frivolous social networks seem to be a more pressing concept than social unrest and the average young adult can probably give you a longer list of celebrities who have been to rehab than Pulitzer Prize winners. It’s safe to say our priorities are disconcertingly skewed.
Why is our culture so obsessed with celebrities? Most of them are beautiful train wrecks—the ultimate archetype of the cliché “looks can be deceiving.” Expensive clothes and bleached teeth help mask their uncouth, destructive and sometimes bizarre behavior, which is praised and perpetuated in our society. Real social issues are buried beneath Kim and Kanye’s poor child naming choice, or Lindsay Lohan’s latest rehab stint. We’ve been forced to “keep up” with the Kardashians for nearly seven years now and the release of Lindsay Lohan’s docu-series last Sunday is maintaining the idea that the more bad decisions you make, the more fame you will be awarded.
Fascination with the rich and famous is driving a society plagued with narcissism, incognizance and reckless behavior.
When a famous person ODs, goes to rehab, or gets a DUI, it is glorified in the media. Organizations like TMZ and Access Hollywood have made millions off of celebs’ downward spirals. Reality shows like Celebrity Rehab portray stars as funny TV characters instead of real people with real issues. It’s unclear if we are meant to live vicariously through their reckless, yet glamorous existence or pity their drug-addled lives of hardships. What about the everyday reality of “normal” people who have overcome substance abuse or lost a loved one to a drug overdose? Where is their four-page spread or universal TV coverage?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 36,000 Americans died due to a drug overdose in 2008 but Heath Ledger’s story was the only one we remember. And even then, his fatal cocktail of pills did nothing to increase awareness of the dangers of prescription drugs in our society. We were heartbroken that “The Dark Knight” was going to be the last time we would see the handsome, young actor but we didn’t bat an eyelash about how or why.
We have a romanticized idea of celebrities in this country. We imagine that they spend carefree nights at trendy nightclubs getting wasted and snorting lines in the back of limos. We put them on a pedestal they don’t deserve just because they are beautiful, wealthy and well dressed. All that glitters is not gold. People with the highest paying salaries seem to have the lowest morals.
Yet these are the people we have chosen to represent our society. These are people’s heroes and role models: a community of people who are notorious for reckless and outlandish behavior, drug abuse, promiscuity and vanity.
As a society, we need to stop propagating this behavior. We are collectively acknowledging that it is glamorous to abuse drugs and break the law as long as you look good while doing it. We are desensitized to the ways of celebrities because we have subconsciously agreed that it is normal behavior.