Unpopular Opinion: All Celebrities Are Overrated

And this isn’t even a fresh notion
Published: 23 April 2024

I often wonder what Andy Warhol would think about current celebrity culture, given his most attributed quote about a universal 15-minute notoriety. Which is not even verbatim, apparently. Prophecy aside, what would the visual artist make of the 21st century sea of trashy reality TV and viral reels?

Putting people on a pedestal traces back to royalty and religious figures throughout history. This, apart from making Jesus the OG influencer and another pun about God-shaped holes, demonstrates how an innate aspirational desire existed even before the advent of mass media. It’s almost like preparation met opportunity with the rise of Hollywood, tabloid culture and the successive Internet-accelerated commodification of fame.

There’s plenty of literature exploring celebrity impact on societal dynamics, but would it be fair to say the root of the obsession is a little more complex? Quite literally anyone can cultivate a fan base; without even being human. First, it was pets, now it’s AI thirst traps.

You have to admit the metrics are inconsistent too. Widespread circulation and exponential interconnectivity of diverse platforms today allow individuals of various fields to gain recognition, even going on to become an international phenomenon. Yet, we don’t necessarily regard their achievements with the same weight as the ones within the entertainment industry. Say, a semi-decent actor versus an exceptional... accountant. The extent of our interest can be equated with how much time these personalities spend in the spotlight; their relevance a parallel to how prominent they remain after we notice them, whether for their careers or their antics, à la Musk, Trump, etc.

So what fundamental aspects of human psychology does this enduring allure reflect? Why do we confer this status to entertainers, specifically? What makes fame increasingly enticing to each subsequent generation since? To loosely quote a TikTokker, “Think about it—medieval peasants didn’t ask the jester for a photo after his courtroom fart.”

I’m not against celebrities; I’m just not for inflating a performance beyond what it is. Being influenced is one thing, idolising is another. It’s that eternal debate of whether we should divorce a person’s work from their conduct, no doubt prompted by the characters we’ve dubbed "tortured geniuses".

If anything, these may be the least prospects whose behaviour we’d want to emulate. The very nature of the profession demands a certain spoonful of egocentric attributes. Worse still if said personas were thrown into a star-making machine from an impressionable age (doesn’t help that K-pop trainees eventually graduate to become ‘idols’).

Imagine spending your formative season ingrained with the need to be validated because your worth is directly proportionate to public opinion. Imagine being constantly engulfed by people who relate to you like a product because they have a job to do. What sort of worldview would that shape?

I’d argue that present-day fame transcends escapism. It has gone a little deeper beyond connection to identification, and thus emotional attachment. We surely know better than to consider everyone with a voice a role model, but in a time where fame is powered by the very attention and admiration we give, let’s perhaps not freely relinquish this respect and value to a fallible sense of extraordinary.

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