Saturday, October 11, 2014

Contempt, celebrities, and society at large

So I have been thinking about my feelings regarding celebrities since my best friend remarked that I seem to have contempt for them.  I've yet to find a topic that didn't warrant at least a little bit of consideration (since I'd rather engage in analysis than do just about anything), and here is my preliminary determination.

First, the background:

I don't watch television.  I've never seen Downtown Abbey, The Walking Dead or any reality show since the first season of The Real World on Mtv.  The last show I watched religiously and loved was Seinfeld.  I will watch one movie a week, but I am very selective about the ones I watch.  I have never met a celebrity (unless you count one local radio channel personality friend whom I worked out with for 3 years).  I have had my photo taken with one author, Richard Marius, whom I met in college.  I think I got a book signed by Bobbie Ann Mason in college, too.  

I don't watch television news, either.  I rely on D to tell me the weather outlook every day, or I look out my window.  

I do, however, have a great fascination with  When FB is boring and I've read the couple blogs I check regularly, I usually head over to see the stink about celebrities.  So I sorta stay marginally in-the-know about celebrities.

I think the arts are very important to society.  Obviously, I love literature.  I like music.  I like theater.  I appreciate the thoughtfulness of some movies, and I appreciate (on occasion) the stupidity of movies that get me to laugh and ramp down my anxiety.  Heck, I'm having my juniors/seniors watch two versions of Jane Eyre this week on Netflix so that they can compare them to the novel.  I think there is much to be said for what film can do for our understanding of ourselves and the world.

Ok, now the analysis:

Celebrities, in my opinion, do not live in the real world.  Nor do politicians or athletes or heads of corporations, which might explain my apparent contempt for these people too.  Anyone who makes millions of dollars for their jobs and lives in luxury cannot remain "normal" in the lower- and middle-class senses of the world.  Fame and money and the power that go with those things make it tremendously difficult and, I would argue, impossible. 

I recognize that celebrities, politicians, athletes and heads of corporations are human, have feelings and deserve the same rights as others.  But I think the fame and money and power often give these people the sense that they are deserving of "more" than the rest of us or that they can have their cake and eat it too.

For example, a person who becomes very famous gains the adoration of millions of people, gains millions of dollars per film or episode of television, gains lots of perks (like designer dresses and jewelry and other goodies at awards shows), gains a certain amount of power and prestige.  People listen to them simply because they are famous.  Leonardo DiCaprio is not a climatologist or any kind of expert in the field, but his voice is powerful enough from acting in films that he spoke before the United Nations.  Emma Watson did the same (on feminism).  

But in gaining all of this, they lose their ability to live life like a "normal" human.  They lose their privacy, their ability to blend in and go to the grocery without having their photo taken.  They lose their ability to say whatever they want and have it go unnoticed.  The cost to them of fame/power/money is that they live their lives under a microscope, at least until the height of their popularity/celebrity is over.

This is the way it is, and it galls me when celebrities forget this, when they seem whiney or forget what the fame & fortune contract means.  When they "want it all" (a mentality that I dislike in general since no one in any situation can have it all).

But beyond the celebrities/politicians/athletes, what I have contempt for is the structure of society that gives these folks the money and fame and voice of power when so many people who do much greater things of value for society at large are devalued.  Like the men and women who care for residents of nursing homes and make $30,000 per year (and that is being generous).  Like the people who work in daycare centers and are playing a huge role in the raising of society's children.  Like EMTs and police dispatch workers.  

Society at large makes it possible for celebrities/athletes to live as they do.  We value entertainment above all else, and that is what I have contempt for.  The celebrities and athletes are simply the scapegoats that I blame because they have a voice and a face and their voices/faces are plastered everywhere one looks.  

Their voices and faces everywhere is also a constant reminder to me of my white privilege, of my upper-middle class privilege.  Essentially, celebrities/athletes remind me of the battle I feel every day to strive to be charitable, to be kind, to feel compassion, to not get wrapped up in my luxury (which though not as luxurious as celebrities is far more luxurious than people in other parts of the world.  

I am not bitter that these celebrities/athletes have what they have or do what they do.  I wouldn't trade places with them (and personally working on a movie set and just "hanging around" between takes sounds about as interesting as watching paint peel).  

If they remind me of my battle every day against privilege, I would not want to step in their shoes and feel more guilt.  

No comments: