Friday, June 27, 2014

Celebrity Obsession: Why Are We So Star-Struck?

Here's What Matters
 by Mimi Machakaire

For many years being a celebrity has been both a blessing and a curse. As children, many of us dream of walking that red carpet, wearing some fabulous designer gown or suit, having hordes of adoring  fans, and receiving awards and accolades for our talents. But despite these idyllic factors, it has become clear that being a celebrity also comes at a price.

Celebrities have their entire lives exposed due to the fact that their work is so public. From the moment they step out of their homes they are judged and scrutinised, from what they are wearing to who they are with. Their jobs rely on marketing and on being in the public eye, and since the entertainment industry works so hard to turn us into an adoring audience, we begin to watch and follow their lives religiously. Celebrities like Rihanna receive a constant stream of public attention as we marvel over every aspect of her life, such as following her shooting a new magazine cover on, follow her roller coaster love life, and then gasp as she shows up on the red carpet wearing a nude dress. Our attention increases their public profile, and by reading, following and sharing stories about them, we add to the media's need to cover the topics that we want to know about. Eventually, even the most mundane of events, like Rihanna being seen at her favourite restaurant, can be newsworthy.

Recent studies show that this level of celebrity obsession can be linked with a celebrity’s ability to grab and actively maintain the devotion of their fans, and eventually no matter what they do, positive or negative, they will still get widespread attention. The cycle is often fed by celebrities through their marketing efforts in order to increase their public profile, as well as by devoted fans who constantly want more from the celebrity and want to feel a greater sense of closeness to them.Whether it is the celebrity themselves for choosing the lifestyle that they have, or ours for watching as that lifestyle develops, we seem to be surrounded by celebrity obsession. We become lost in the lives of famous people, somehow knowing many intimate details about them, even though we might claim to loathe them. While many of us are mildly interested in celebrities or even enjoy our weekly tabloids, obsession is when this interest begins to compromise our normal functioning and sense of reality. Dr. John D. Moore, author of Confusing Love with Obsession and creator of the Obsessive Love Wheel tells us that there are three primary types of celebrity obsession:

1. Simple Obsessional

This includes symptoms of social awkwardness, feelings of powerlessness, a sense of insecurity, and very low self-esteem. If the individual is unable to have any sort of connection to the celebrity with which they are obsessed, their own sense of self-worth may decline. Yet this form of obsession is generally associated with individuals who have shared previous personal relationships with their chosen celebrities.

2. Love Obsessional

This is a position in which many people can sadly fall; it refers to someone who has developed a love obsession with a celebrity whom they have had no personal relation to. Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Jodie Foster, and Mila Kunis along with numerous other A-list stars have fallen victim to this form of obsession. The effects of this syndrome can often be linked to mental disorder, commonly either schizophrenia or paranoia, and might be dangerous for the celebrity involved as the obsession escalates.

3. Erotomanic

This refers to those who genuinely believe that their chosen celebrities are in love with them. Individuals who suffer from Erotomania tend to believe that the celebrity with whom they are obsessed is making use of the media as a way to communicate with them by sending special messages or signals. Strangely, they are less likely to seek any form of face-to-face interaction with their celebrity obsession, therefore posing less of a threat than those classified under Love Obsessional.

If you fall under any of these categories or know someone who does, it is best to seek help as it might lead to severe problems. But even if you are not obsessed to these extreme degrees and just feel like you might be too preoccupied with celebrity culture, Dr. Phil offers some advice with steps on how to move on from celebrity obsession.

1: Pursue a realistic passion

If you find yourself endlessly fantasising about a celebrity or reading everything that you can about them, try and put more energy into your dating life, meet new people and develop new hobbies. Finding alternative ways to expend your energy will mean that you are too busy to fuel your obsession, and eventually you might find that real-life friendships, constructive hobbies and meaningful, reciprocal relationships are a lot more satisfying.

2: Celebrities don't always look like celebrities

Make it a point to keep in mind that celebrities don’t always naturally look the way they do in magazines or on TV. They put a lot of work into their bodies and many have pursued cosmetic surgery or other drastic means to ensure that they look their best. There is a lot of pressure on celebrities to look the way they do, so they can also get help from lighting, hair stylists and make-up artists who can work wonders for their appearance. The point is that they are all human, and probably don't live up to your fantasies after a stressful day at work, not sleeping enough, or when working out at the gym, and they probably don't all have the exact same personalities that we might witness in interviews.

3: Learn to accept yourself

If you are obsessed with how imperfect your life or your looks seem in comparison to a celebrity's, Dr. Phil suggests that you need to embrace your gifts, skills, abilities, characteristics and everything that uniquely defines you. Once you learn to accept yourself, you will be able to confidently say, as Dr. Phil's famous mantra goes: “I’m OK with me because I'm going to be with me for a long, long time."

4: Don't be duped by the marketing machine!

Dr Phil had noticed that a lot of fans simply buy things they can’t afford because their favourite celebrity has that item. This can lead to massive debt and the construction of a fantasy life that might not be authentic. Dr Phil suggests that you "[s]top measuring your self-worth as a function of what somebody marketed to you. Be a star in your own life.”

These examples show that our celebrity-obsessed culture might lead to many personal problems if we don't keep our own consumption of these media in check. While celebrities might seem to lead the lives that we wish we had, we can only really be fulfilled when we begin to love or better the lives that we are already living, and begin to lead our lives based in reality rather than the fantasies which celebrity culture seems to offer.