Is celebrity bad for society?

In its original and traditional sense, celebrity was used to refer to a person in society who was celebrated for heroic achievements in their different endeavors. In fact, celebrities were considered heroes in society and the status was revered as one who brought glory to the society. Back then, human right activists and people who represented the community in sports, politics and other cultural activities were given the celebrity status. In Ancient Greece, for instance, athletes were welcomed home with song and dance and given heroic status. Fast forward to today and the definition reflects something else, or at least in some aspects. Riley (2010, pp 16) defines celebrity as public and fame attention in the media and lists things that could be celebrities as people, couples and even animals.

The current celebrity culture is dogged with the emphasis on media-driven fame as opposed to popularity based on achievements (Marshall & Sean, pp 12). A common view of a celebrity today is one who becomes popular through involvement of press and campaigns from the media. In actual fact, the current obsession with celebrities is attributable to the extensive explosion of cable television, information technology, television channels as well as internet websites. Among these media, television is considered as the fire that ignites, illuminates and affects people in a way they barely dwell on. Driven by the milieu that is superstardom, television as well as other media has modified the encounter of people with the so called celebrities. There is a demand from the viewers to watch and read rumors and gossip that it has driven the media actors to manufacture new celebrities. In hindsight, the coverage of these celebrities on television screens is usually at the expense of other programmes that could be aired to the public. In the ensuing conundrum, a lingering question is whether this celebrity culture is any good to the society.

The protagonists of celebrity culture argue out the entertainment value that celebrities bestow upon the general public. Ideally, celebrities do possess a strong influence over the lifestyle trends among the collective audience and are seen as role models whose decisions people have to follow. The fact that celebrities’ lives are covered in the media gives them a form of power in shaping the audience’s ideology on many issues. By the responsibilities bestowed on them, the celebrities turn out to have the ability to influence the lives of their audience either in a positive or negative way. While it is true that celebrity culture has both positive and negative ramifications on the society, the negative impacts do outweigh the positive ones in scope (Ward, 2011, pp 106). The assertion is based on the fact that the positive impacts are borne by a smaller portion (their followers) while the negative ones are borne by a wider group indirectly.

One of the positive impacts of celebrity on the people is the sense of gratification that it confers upon the audience. In most cases, the viewers align their lifestyle to match that of the people they celebrate in the media. Research has shown that the mere feeling of association with the seemingly successful personalities gives the audience a feeling of upward mobility. To the audience, they can relate with an elite status in society and this gives them the feeling that they are important in society. This association is exemplified in the way in which most football fans will change their haircuts to match those of footballers they so much revere. During the FIFA world cup, for instance, high profile players boast of their latest hairstyles besides showcasing their skills. The feeling of having a haircut that Cristiano Ronaldo adorns for instance may be the difference between a teenager’s depression and self esteem.

The increasing influence that celebrities have makes them an ideal bet in activism and advocacy. In fact, the recent past has seen the increased involvement and engagement of celebrities in advocacy programs including human rights awareness. The ability of celebrities to attract masses is enough muscle to sway opponents of a certain cause into supporting it. Celebrities have also been involved in creating awareness on the issues such as homelessness or to persuade people to cease negative traditions such as FGMs. In fact, large international agencies and organizations bank on celebrity ambassadors to encourage youths to partake in their programs. The belief is that the celebrities’ involvement is considered cool and will attract large masses who want to be associated with them.

In addition, many celebrities have gone beyond mere involvement in social welfare to starting their own charity foundations and organizations. The organizations are geared at solving sociological issues and are very successful for their ability to amass huge funding. In this regard, most of the development advocacy programmes combine culture and politics by involving celebrities in fundraising concerts and events. Angelina Jolie, for instance is a goodwill ambassador for UNHCR and her presence in the activities has attracted many organizations and individuals who pledge their support to such programmes. Whenever there is a national or international tragedy, celebrities will come together to support the funding drives in their respective countries (Warner, 2014, pp 58). In Haiti, for instance, musicians led by Wycliffe Jean joined hands in creating awareness and mobilizing funds after the most recent earthquake killed hundreds of citizens.

The celebrities despite being seen as mere entertainers can also be viewed as part of the world’s economic backbone. The ability of celebrities to create an alternative form of employment both for themselves and for others is quite exemplary to say the least. In a world where employment is hard to come by, these set of people have been able to make fortunes from disturbing situations. Moreover, the amount of money involved in the celebrity world is enough to drive an economy. Take for example that revenue collected from artists’ performances all around the world and the percentage that goes into taxes. These money benefits not only the celebrities but many other people that are involved either directly or indirectly. In this regard, the stakeholders in the entertainment industry acquire profits from the investments in the industry and the people employed to work in their joints.

Celebrities are also country ambassadors and they market a country’s image to the outside world. Celebrities that have an international following can sway tourists to visit their country of origin or that of residence just by portraying it to be cool. A celebrity can attract thousands of people to visit a beach that he/she has visited because the followers see the choices of the celebrity as cool. Footballers like Lionel Messi have the ability to influence large groups of people to visit the countries just to watch them play a game of football. As thus, celebrities can be seen as goodwill ambassadors who portray the country’s image in good light to the outside world. Moreover, celebrities can also influence the general public to use a certain product that they are associated with. If a celebrity is spotted drinking a particular brand of fruit juice, for instance, many people will want to take the juice just to be associated with them.

The influence that celebrities have on young people can be used in the society to encourage young people to work hard and exploit their dreams. There are very many celebrities who are good role models to the young generation today. Celebrities such as Ben Carson and others who have overcome difficulties to become successful personalities can have a near perfect influence on young people. The problem however is the fact that parents have little or no control over the celebrities that their children choose as role models. One might bank on celebrities to improve positive behavior in their child only to realize that their choice of role models include drug and sex addicts.

Despite the positive influences identified above, it is not always bliss in the celebrity industry with regard to their impacts. In fact, the positives are minimal and stop at the point of their influence. The negatives are so wide and diverse that if not keenly addressed may bring society at its knees. Most of the negatives that celebrity confers on society are also related to the influence they hold over the general public. Children and teenagers are the most vulnerable of the group mainly because of their naivety and immaturity. The society stands to lose if the current crop of celebrities is left unchecked in their influence over the young people in society.

One of the negative impacts of celebrity culture in society is the ability to transform individuals of good morals into those that don’t care. Celebrities that are often caught making offences such as drunk driving and smoking marijuana are a negative influence to the young generation. The situation is compounded by the fact that the media portrays these celebrities as cool when they make the offences. In fact, such behavior is adored among the young generation and is usually meant to increase their fame. The morality in general is blurred because the teens do not stop idolizing their celebrities when they commit such misdemeanors (Penfold, 2009, pp 94). Since these teens are at an experimental stage of their lives, they embark on practicing what they have watched their celebrities do and they end up becoming drug addicts and dropping out of school.

At the center of the moral decay in society is the media which accelerates the rate of decay through sensationalizing their reporting of celebrity lifestyles. This, the media achieves by portraying the livelihoods of celebrities as intriguing and far from reality. The coverage of immoral events involving the celebrities such as smoking marijuana acts to facilitate the same behaviors that the society abhors. The media has given these celebrities too much airplay and space at the expense of other more important programmes. For instance, television show hosts will invite celebrities who cause controversy just to get their shows more viewership. What the personalities don’t realize is that they are harming the society more.

The influence that celebrities have on the youth and they strive to be like them is also negative in the sense that these youth end up having a low esteem when they don’t achieve that. Modern celebrities sell a certain notion of beauty that is hard to achieve among many people. The accentuation of body features to portray beauty and the labeling of those who lack these features is somehow depressing to young girls (Jaffe, 2005, pp 48). The young people end up looking down on themselves at the prospect of them being called ugly. What these young people do not know is that the celebrities have altered their bodies to reflect what they term as cool.

One example of this distorted notion is the glorification of having a thigh gap as the ultimate measure of sexiness. Girls embark on working out to achieve the shape that is ‘desired’ by many as sold by the celebrities. In the usual event that these girls fail to achieve this shape, they end up having a low self esteem and hating themselves for not being like the celebrities they admire. In this respect, many cases of suicide and suicide attempts have been reported all over the world involving young boys and girls who have idolized their celebrities.

The lifestyle that celebrities engage in portrays that of people who do not work hard but still get what they want. The coverage of the celebrities’ lives shows them having fun all day and it does not show the source of their money that supports the expensive lifestyles that they lead (Ferris & Scott, pp 92). This notion of being successful even without having to work hard is one that is of detrimental consequences to the young generation. The youth end up being lazy and emulating such lifestyle even when they are in school. The result of this habit is that the young people will end up mugging people and stealing in order to support this lifestyle. Some of the drugs that the celebrities use are very expensive and unemployed youths cannot afford to buy them. In an attempt to lead such lifestyles, the youth end up involving themselves in crime so as to get money to buy the drugs (Penfold, 2009, pp 73).

There is an increasing trend of children dropping out of school and hanging out in groups in estates all in emulation of the celebrities. While the school dropouts cannot solely be attributed to the influence from the celebrities, there is enough reason to believe that the obsession young people have on celebrity culture is driving these dropouts. The young people of today are made to believe that going to school is not cool and that spending all day engaging in drug abuse in the company of friends is much more fun. In addition, the young have a distorted view of life because they think success can come even without them having an education. All these negative viewpoints can be traced to the celebrity culture which influence the youth negatively even without its consciousness.

The coverage of celebrities’ lifestyles also has a negative impact in that it denies the society a chance to watch and read more important news and reports. It is common for mainstream media to cover Lindsey Lohan’s drug abuse and even glorify it but not find time to cover the military in their job of protecting the country. Celebrity news is cheap to produce because it borders on rumors and gossip and is as well very easy to sell therefore making it a darling of many television shows and channels. This has led to a reduction in the content of government and politics news that are covered in most of the media. The effect of this slash is that the public is denied the chance to watch news reports of things that are of great concern to them. For instance, the lack of coverage on such issues as the conflicts in Iraq and Syria creates a large knowledge gap on governance issues among the public. In retrospect, shows that focus on celebrity personalities have grown in volume and scope and are the darling of many a television hosts (Warner, 2014, pp 61).

The culture of celebrity and its glorification is a destructive path because it encourages and sustains a culture of narcissism among the general public. The children and the young adolescents are of course the most vulnerable because of a lack of strong values. In effect, they end up having a false perception of life associating happiness with elegance, fame and wealth. A large number of people in the world are manipulating their body features including their faces to emulate certain celebrities who they consider to be sexy or cool. The obsession with self that celebrities display has been infected to the general public and especially the younger generation. They think that the people they idolize on televisions have a perfect life and have no problems whatsoever (Pinsky et al., pp 79). This leads them to desire such lifestyles and they end up trying too hard and despising others who they deem as not cool.

The culture of celebrity is also to blame, at least partly, for the diminishing respect that children have towards their parents and elders in general. In today’s world, it is easier for a teenager to recite the celebrity who is dating who and who has broken up with whom than name the three arms of government. The situation is so bad that most teenagers cannot even locate the position of their country on a map. Traditionally, parents were revered by their kids and considered as near immortals whose decisions had to be obeyed regardless of the implications. Today, most teens would rather listen to their celebrities than do with some advice from their parents. This condition has led to a weak bond between the parents and their children (Ward, 2011, pp 117). The children have been cut off from the society and are not part of it, at least not actively. The effect of this gap is that problems are hard to identify and deal with because children do not open up to their parents.

The presence of having celebrities in a society is a positive and natural process of recognizing trend setters. It has no negative implications in its natural form. However, trouble begets society when the celebrity culture is idolized and people become too much obsessed with it. In essence, a society should recognize heroes and people that it holds in high esteem such as its leaders. However the choice of celebrities determines whether the implications will be negative or positive. Moreover, no one person can dictate the type of celebrities they want the society to be associated with. In fact, such an endeavor would be in futility and would not gain much ground. However, people can choose the celebrities they want to be identified with at a personal level and make them their own role models. There is no harm in having a celebrity role model if their values reflect what deem to be right. The problem is more pronounced in children because they cannot make a rational decision on the subject. Their parents and the society at large should take up the responsibility of guiding the children in making these vital decisions. Where the children have faltered, the society should be ready to correct them and guide them back on the right path.

There is no doubt that celebrity attracts both positive and negative implications. The concept has both bright and dull aspects all centered on the influence it has over the general public. That notwithstanding, we’d be damned to think that the positive ramifications are of the same magnitude as the negative influences. The negative side of celebrity far surpasses any positive impact that it may have on society. The reason for this is simply due to the fact that positivity is easy to achieve but negativity is hard to correct. The society must always be on the right path and a simple fault displaces its momentum. Despite these negative effects, the power of the celebrity culture increases with every passing day. By now, the society is privy to the fact that the concept of celebrity culture is here to stay. The society must therefore transform towards behaviors that are consumptive in the wake of this impeding threat.



Ferris, Kerry, and Scott R. Harris. Stargazing: Celebrity, Fame, and Social Interaction. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

JAFFE, A. (2005). Modernism and the culture of celebrity. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Marshall, P D, and Sean Redmond. A Companion to Celebrity. , 2015. Print.

PENFOLD-MOUNCE, R. (2009). Celebrity culture and crime: the joy of transgression. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan

Pinsky, Drew, S M. Young, and Jill Stern. The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Endangering Our Families and How to Save Them. New York: Harper, 2010. Print.

RILEY, S. G. (2010). Star struck: an encyclopedia of celebrity culture. Santa Barbara, Calif, Greenwood Press.

WARD, P. (2011). Gods behaving badly: media, religion, and celebrity culture. Waco, Tex, Baylor University Press.

WARNER, H. (2014). Fashion on television: identity and celebrity culture. London [etc.], Bloomsbury.

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