In the short science-fiction novel The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Tiptree, Jr. (the pen name of Alice Bradley Sheldon), formal advertising as it is known has been banned. However, the businessmen of the fictitious GTX cooperation have no problems getting around this new law. They know, just as the advertising executives of today know, that it is human instinct to admire and emulate the actions of those they view as successful, and that people will covet the products and services they see being used by the beautiful and glamorous.
People will always strive for the fame and fortune of the celebrities they see parading across their television screens and plastered on magazine covers. There are times when these role models can be positive; skilled actors, artists, and athletes succeeding at their craft. However, in today’s scandal-loving society, most of our media outlets are filled with stories of talentless people’s antics, such as a socialite’s multiple plastic surgeries, or a reality television star’s D. U. I.
Celebrity role models give youth a distorted view of reality; that success can be achieved through conducting scandals, extreme drug use, and physically deforming ways. Coming up with the names of a few popular celebrities – Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Snooki – isn’t much of a challenge. What’s harder is defining exactly why those people are so well-known. The celebrity today is more commonly famous solely for the sake of being famous, rather than for possessing any true talent. In an editorial cartoon from Investor’s Business Daily, this point is illustrated quite bluntly.
In the image, a young, pig-tailed girl sits at the base of an ancient Mayan temple, on a slab that reads “CELEBRITY WORSHIP. ” She looks up at her mother and father, standing beside her, and expresses her desire to be “just like” a number of celebrities: the previously mentioned Paris, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Anna Nicole Smith. He parents, wearing traditional sacrificial headdresses and holding a skull-encrusted knife, reply to her, “Of course… after we remove your brain. ” The caption of this cartoon is “The Human Sacrifice,” a blunt and fitting title.
If the girl really were to have her “brain removed” and become as shallow and fame-seeking as the celebrities she mentions, it really would be the loss of a human life. The women she mentions as her role models are known prominently, or solely, for their scandalous lifestyles. It would be a waste of talent, the deprivation of a possibly great contribution to society if this child were to emulate the promiscuous, partying ways of these females she sees as ideal, that she finds ideal only because that is what the media has conditioned her to believe this is how one achieves status.
That the artist has used a Mayan-inspired setting is no coincidence. The Mayans are known for their prediction of the end of the world in 2012. The cartoonist is suggesting an end to society if the youth continue to seek fame without reason; to take the lazy man’s route and become known for shame rather than skill. An increasing number of celebrities, not just the ever-multiplying reality stars, but even the skilled thespians, musicians, and athletes, are known to use hard drugs or to abuse alcohol.
It’s hard to imagine turning on the television without hearing about other one of Lindsay Lohan’s stints of driving under the influence, or Charlie Sheen bragging that he “did more [cocaine] than anybody could survive” (Charlie Sheen says…). These people receive more and more attention by doing more and more drugs, so much so that drugs can become the things they are most associated with. Even celebrities with talent are using drugs to enhance their abilities, such as when athletes use steroids.
Barry Bonds, a former Major League Baseball player for the San Francisco giants, was convicted of using performance-enhancing drugs when he hit a record 72 home runs in a single season. Despite the ruling, and a tarnished public image, Bonds still maintains his title (Bonds Exposed). For children and young adults this is added confirmation, aside from the regular school yard peer pressure, that drinking and drugs are the “cool” thing to do. Drugs are something that everyone is doing, and especially something those who are successful are doing.
This is not the actual case, as there are plenty of prosperous and well-known people who do not touch drugs, or at least not to the point that it is public knowledge. But these are not the people and the stories that make headlines; these are not the celebrities that people are exposed to every day. The desire to emulate these positive role models is lessened because they receive less attention. In this case, good behavior is not rewarded. Perhaps the most controversial trend in Hollywood today is cosmetic surgery. It is become increasingly common for a movie star or model to have “a little work done. While occasionally only a small, single procedure, extremely plastic surgery procedures are making headlines, and being used to increase publicity. Heidi Montag, former star of the popular MTV reality program The Hills, is now better known for having ten cosmetic operations in one day then she is for her part in the show (Oldenburg). This is adding to the increasingly unobtainable Western standard of beauty, and tagging on to it that in reaching that standard, or at least trying to, a person can achieve fame. Even other celebrities feel this pressure to reach physical perfection.
Some tragically developing eating disorders, such as Mary-Kate Olsen and her battle with anorexia and bulimia (Tauber, Smolowe). While this is heartbreaking for the celebrity, it can be equally as devastating to those that idealize them. Some people will see these stories and conclude that starving themselves or binging and purging is the only way to achieve the figures that they find desirable, or are told to find desirable. In truth, in doing this they are only hurting themselves not just physically, but psychologically.
Celebrities set the bar of physical beauty so high that even they can have trouble reaching it, much less the average, everyday citizen. Celebrity will never die. Humans will always be fascinated by other humans who have succeeded in their own goals. It is when the goals of these celebrities become celebrity itself that a problem occurs. Children, young adults, everyone should be allowed to be exposed to positive role models, not just the trash-talking reality star junkies that are featured today. However, there is no story without a scandal, so there are no hopes of the media changing its ways any time soon. People need to rely on their own best judgment, and do what they know it takes to succeed.
“Bonds exposed. ” Sports Illustrated 7 Mar. 2006. Web. 22 Sept. 2012. <http://sportsillustrated. cnn. com/2006/baseball/mlb/03/06/news. excerpt/>. “Charlie Sheen Says He’s ‘Not Bipolar but. ” Good Morning America. CBS Broadcasting, Inc. 28 Feb. 2011. Web. 21 Sept. 2012. <http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=h5aSa4tmVNM>. Oldenburg, Ann. “Heidi Montag has 10 plastic surgery procedures. ” USA Today 13 Jan. 2010. Web.