Leading our children away from celebrity culture

This week, Forbes released its annual top celebrities list, The Celebrity 100.

Quite simply, the list measures, as Forbes shamelessly puts it, “money and fame”.

Calculating the in-crowd includes looking at earnings over the past year, as well as “media and social networking power”.

One gets the sense that we are encouraged to idolize these people.

Wealth and fame are incredibly seductive, and have become the holy grail in our modern religion of self-worship.

Beyonce, JayZ, Dr. Dre, Ellen DeGeneres, Rhianna, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga, etc. are among our new saints – even though many of them are anything but.

The longer I am a parent, the less I understand our fascination with celebrities.

Being a parent, I think, opens your eyes to what is really important in life – things like unconditional love, selflessness and stability.

Yet, the celebrity culture seems to turn everything on its head: what is essential for a happy life is not valued, while the less important things – such as wealth, fame and beauty – are touted as the only way to happiness.

Recently, the philosopher Alain de Botton wrote in The Guardian that we need celebrities because we have a natural tendency to admire people who seem glamorous and successful.

We should ‘anoint’ good celebrities, he argued, so that we can channel our admiration appropriately.

I disagree. In fact, I think it’s a dangerous idea, because celebrity culture is based upon myths about what it means to live a meaningful human life.

For instance, celebrities are portrayed as skinny – but with big breasts – unbelievably beautiful or handsome, wealthy and famous.

The message we get is that, because of these things, they are therefore of more value than us.

And they have more fun, better sex, and more meaningful relationships.

Indeed, the wisdom from celebrity land is that wealth, fame and beauty are the things that give anyone value, and they must be pursued above everything else. Continue reading


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