I recently said no to a contest featuring my books in a popular teen mag. The prize was some postcards of mine that were completed by celebrities. I turned it down because I feel that our society has an unhealthy obsession with celebrity culture, and a need to glorify superficial qualities in people (mainly appearance) and make them into role models. This is a terrible message to send to teenagers, who are often in a difficult and challenging place emotionally, and feeling physically and socially insecure at the best of times. I was at that age. I’d like to start a movement where kids are able to see the cult of celebrity for what it is. The selling of fantasy, with a focus on “selling”, and a fixation on the superficial.
This week I read an interesting article that helped me to relax my “anti-celebrity” stance somewhat, (I believe the author is Alain de Botton, who founded the school). The School of Life posted “Why We Need Better Celebrities”, which talked about how humans have always had an inherent need for role models,
“Rather than try to suppress our love of celebrity, we ought to channel it in optimally intelligent and fruitful directions. A properly organised society would be one where the best-known people (the ones whose parties and holiday photos and clothes and new hairstyles we looked at most often) were those who embodied and reinforced the highest, noblest and most socially beneficial values.”
Aahhh, yes. Let’s start a new celebrity movement, one that seeks out people who kick ass in many different ways (who don’t just have a cool haircut, but also intellect and vision.)
Let’s also celebrate our own unique thoughts, perspectives and gifts! Let’s focus on genuine qualities in people, kindness, compassion, fortitude, determination, creativity, persistence, vulnerability, etc. Doesn’t that sound better?
For a good example of promoting solid role models, (and a genuine voice) I highly recommend Rookie Mag, they have been doing this very well for a few years now! (I so wish I had this mag when I was a teen.)
(Maybe I should revisit the contest idea, with a new approach. Hmmmnn. The way to influence culture in a healthy way is to ask for the changes you wish to see.)