Prior to reading George Monbiot's insightful article, I never understood celebrity culture.
The rise of celebrity culture did not happen by itself. It has long been cultivated by advertisers, marketers and the media. And it has a function. The more distant and impersonal corporations become, the more they rely on other people’s faces to connect them to their customers.
It is hard for people to attach themselves to a homogenised franchise, owned by a hedge fund whose corporate identity consists of a filing cabinet in Panama City. So the machine needs a mask. It must wear the face of someone we see as often as we see our next-door neighbours.
An obsession with celebrity does not lie quietly beside the other things we value; it takes their place. A study published in the journal Cyberpsychology reveals that an extraordinary shift appears to have taken place between 1997 and 2007. In 1997, the dominant values (as judged by an adult audience) expressed by the shows most popular among 9-11 year olds were community feeling, followed by benevolence. Fame came 15th out of the 16 values tested. By 2007, when shows like Hannah Montana prevailed, fame came first, followed by achievement, image, popularity and financial success. Community feeling had fallen to 11th; benevolence to 12th.
The blander and more homogenised the product, the more distinctive the mask it needs to wear.
The role of such people is to suggest that there something more exciting behind the logo than office blocks and spreadsheets.
The celebrities you see most often are the most lucrative products, extruded through a willing media by a marketing industry whose power no one seeks to check. This is why actors and models now receive such disproportionate attention, capturing much of the space once occupied by people with their own ideas.
You don’t have to read or watch many interviews to see that the principal qualities now sought in a celebrity are vapidity, vacuity and physical beauty. They can be used as a blank screen onto which anything can be projected. Those who have least to say are granted the greatest number of platforms on which to say it.
Celebrity has a second major role: as a weapon of mass distraction. The survey published in the International Journal of Cultural Studies I mentioned earlier also reveals that people who are the most interested in celebrity are the least engaged in politics, the least likely to protest and the least likely to vote.
In Donald Trump we see a perfect fusion of the two main uses of celebrity culture: corporate personification and mass distraction. His celebrity became a mask for his own chaotic, outsourced and unscrupulous business empire. His public image was the perfect inversion of everything he and his companies represent: as presenter of the US version of The Apprentice, this spoilt heir to humungous wealth became the face of enterprise and social mobility.
... celebrity is the lieutenant of exploitation. [emphasis mine]
Ruth, I hate to continually come back to Network, but its paradigm is too on point, too functional to ignore. It describes a populace that had: "All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused." This started back in the days of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous – before that, really – and only went banana-land from there. Again I have to repeat myself that those who subscribe to such vacuous programming may look at the surface, but they look no further or deeper. These same people have bought into the BS that they can be like those they see on the tube ... just maybe ... and so long as the fatuous buy into that specious load of horse manure, any impact they might have on the status quo is minimized.
They took the blue pill, and they can't be bothered with The Matrix about them.
Nobody gets all necessities provided in the US, unless you're rich or a politician. Us regular folk, forget it!
Boredom amused? For some, sure. I personally find celebrity crap nauseatingly superficial and booooring.