The unfair power of celebrity

By Sean Ferrell-Wyman

Famous people, such as national leaders and cultural figures, have been admired and idolized through most of human history. In recent times, with the advent of mass media, this practice has been exacerbated. The invention of social media has made it possible for anyone to follow the public figure of their choosing and keep up with every aspect of their life down to the most inane detail. With this democratization of celebrity, a disturbing trend has emerged as well.

This pattern sees the thoughts and opinions of the famous and prominent given more weight than those of regular people; a result purely of their fame, regardless of their merits.  It creates an environment in which seeing Samuel L. Jackson and Chuck Norris in (respectively) Obama and Romney 2012 campaign ads seems completely commonplace.  Objectively, neither of those actors have any qualifications for determining the leader of the free world outside of their own vote.

The famous, like everyone else, do have the right to be politically active. There’s nothing wrong with agreeing with a celebrity on some issues, as long as one is doing so for their own reasons. The opinions of famous people aren’t inherently wrong or right because they are famous.

That said, the weight some people place in the opinions of celebrities gives them an unhealthy amount of influence in society and power which they use often to their advantage. For instance, famous people get paid to speak at events and in commercials, but both actions only have power with an audience.

Society seems all too eager to shower celebrities with wealth and power. This comes in sharp contrast with the fact that celebrities are the same as normal people and have all of the same flaws. Justin Bieber, the famous pop star, was arrested twice just this January for DUI and assault. He is a good example of the disastrous effect that celebrity can have upon the human ego. A supposedly respectable cooking show host, Paula Deen, was caught saying racist remarks last year. She exemplifies typical flaws that the famous have in the same measure as the common folk.

Their flaws considered, it’s not too great a leap to say celebrities don’t always have the common good at heart. Many try to exploit their popularity for monetary gain. People should be wary, then, of their exposure to media containing celebrities. It’s okay to watch a movie or buy a song that features a celebrity, even those one personally disagrees with, as long as one doesn’t get taken in.

Critical thinking is required not only as a consumer, but in the political realm as well. Being susceptible to the opinions of familiar famous individuals is a form of self-indoctrination and will only result in distorted judgment. Celebrities will always have their opinions and try to sell them whenever they get the opportunity. Viewers just need to be careful to not give celebrities an undue degree of influence .