The Cult of Celebrity

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The wife and I were in Los Angeles yesterday.

I was in a mediation all day on a case I am handling there, but my wife headed out to Rodeo Drive and then in the afternoon returned to the Beverly Hilton, where we were staying.

About 4:45, she began texting me pictures of celebrities. First it was Mark Wahlberg, then The Dude himself, that’s right, His Dudeness, The Big Lebowski a/k/a Jeff Bridges.

There were others too: Colin Firth, Amy Adams, James Franco, Randy Newman, Ed Begley, Jr. Apparently the movie stars were at the Beverly Hilton for a lunch honoring the Academy Award nominees.

What was odd was the small band of ostensible fans. As soon as a movie star was about to emerge from the hotel, a man would announce them and the “fans” would begin screaming and requesting their autograph. There were about 20 of these fans, and they stood in a roped-off area so that even if you wanted to stand with them to have a chance for an autograph you couldn’t. The other odd thing: they held 8″ by 12″ glossy photographs of each star for them to autograph.

Now we don’t have any inside information on how such things work, but to my wife it certainly appeared the “fans” were on the company dole and were there to make sure there was plenty of excitement and some good images for the nightly news.

Then, sure enough, that night it was on the news, and it looked like the 20 people within the ropes were an army of adoring fans. Nice. Apparently, the fake world of celebrity is even more fake than we knew.

It’s easy to see why so many celebrities are insecure and their lives a wreck. They know they can’t live up to the image Hollywood creates for them, and even some of the adoration we think they receive is apparently staged. What they do for a living mitigates against even the possibility of authenticity.

There was a time when acting was considered a low class profession, and it was considered unseemly to be an actor. Today, our culture values image over reality, so we hold up the former members of your high school drama club as the icons of our society.

I’m not suggesting that the kids from your high school drama club are inferior in any way from anyone else; I’m just wondering why the ability to act makes them superior. More than that, I’m wondering why that makes them worthy of our worship. GS