Celebritism Post 3: What All the Different Types of Celebrities Reveal About Us

I am continuing in my series of exploring celebritism. I had a handful of posts that I weeded out because they carried me away from my original point so I think I’ve got reset again. I’ll post about the tragic and untimely death of Whitney Houston another time as it sadly points to much of what I am saying.

In trying to outline this series of posts, I found the number of people that we regard as celebrities in some way to be incredible and a bit alarming. (In my first post on this, I simply defined a celebrity as a famous, or well known person). While I too have an aversion to stereotyping, I eventually succumbed to the need for it here – hope you’ll see why by the end.

Too Many Different Types of Celebrities:

1. “The Classic Celebrity” – The A-listers of A-listers. They have been talked or will be talked about for decades. Hollywood types like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie. Music types like Bono, Lady Gaga, and Jay-Z. Athletes like Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, and Tom Brady. There is always a handful of modeling celebrities in this grouping, television icons like Dick Clark and a handful of what we could call American royalties like former Presidents. They were the Mickey Mantles and the Marilyn Monroes, the James Deans and the JFK’s.

2. “The Entertainment Celebrity” – Jerry Seinfeld, Betty White, Jake Gyllenhall. All the “It” people whose faces are pictured outside theaters, who critics promise us played an “unforgettable performance”. The really good ones create a connection with us through our screens. It’s interesting how we begin to identify them as “friends” over the years. It’s worth noting that according to the tabloid system, you can up your celebrtism by marrying another celebrity.

3. “The Industry Celebrity” – They “entertain” in a different way – their innovation changed our lives. Steve Jobs was one, Bill Gates is and now people like Mark Zuckerberg fit in this group. People talk about them in a way similar to the way I imagine they did about Edison, Rockefeller and Carnegie.

4. “The Temporary Celebrity” – Katy Perry and Justin Bieber. I know it seems that they will never go away but they are the Alanis Morissette’s and Kid Rock’s of today.

5. “The Villain Celebrity” – Kim Kardashian, LeBron James, Paris Hilton and now Casey Anthony and Jerry Sandusky. Previous villains included the controversial Madonna who was loved again after releasing successful hit albums. Sinead O’Conner, Marilyn Manson and OJ Simpson have fallen off the map into general indifference in perhaps what’s called the “Forgotten Celebrity”.

6. “The Fall from Grace Celebrity” – Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Lindsay Lohan (as posted about earlier). Adored until we hear the words, “Breaking News, reports have been released that …”

7. “The Christian Celebrity” – Being a pastor, I felt the need to include this as every sector/profession of life has theirs. Depending on your corner of the church, these names vary. In my corner, these names are Billy Graham, Tim Keller, Rob Bell, and John Piper. All are white men and three of the four are mid-age to older. Historically, there was really one name you knew, it was the Pope and interestingly enough, his name was always changed. That was until the reformers arrived on the scene and as they had hoped, now preacher’s names are hanging above the stage where the cross of Christ traditionally hung. Ok, that was certainly not their intention, I digress.  But for better or worse, we do need to realize that there are celebrities in the Church.

What This Tells Us
In these categories there are overlaps, there is an A-List, B-List and countless other sub-categories including the wanna-be’s, has-been’s and never will-be’s. They line up at auditions, veg out in front of televisions and never take risks. We could go on here but I have three points to this exercise:

One, we clearly have no shortage of celebrities – and among the many things it reveals, is our need of consumption. And if money can be made from this product, chances are there will be a celebrity to endorse and sell it to us. As mentioned in my first post, the celebrity will always be with us.

Two, it also reveals our apparent need to objectify people. They may be famous but they only matter to us if we like what they do. Even worse, when they no longer interest us, we discard them and when we do, we are in effect saying, people are disposable.

I liken this to us each having a “gladiator” arena. Throughout our week, people are collected for our enjoyment, their performances analyzed, and our pleasure is tabulated by our response at the box-office, the sports arena, how we purchase the products they endorse and how many people “tuned in”. There are now shows that demonstrate how all this done, complete with auditions, judges and “text in your vote”.

When we no longer have any use for them, we give the “thumbs down” sign and whether we look or not, they are quickly removed from our midst.

Third, in light of all of this, we need to be aware how we endorse and help create this system. Know that I am not saying to the fellow Christian that we need to boycott the entertainment industry or culture in general (I find that way of thinking to be unhelpful). Know that I am not saying that we need to save, rescue, or destroy the celebrity system any more than our many other dysfunctional “systems” we have all taken part in creating (political, health, class-system, etc.). What we as believers should already be doing is proclaiming and bringing the redemption demonstrated to us through the person and work of Jesus in all that we say and do.

So, regarding celebritism, what I am saying is that people are people, created in the image of God and deserve that dignity regardless of what our media or even our friends say about them. In doing so, the “celebrity” de-celebritiizes, becomes a normal person, becomes like you and me. Even more importantly, understanding this may allow us to see people the way God sees them.

Thoughts, comments, push backs, feel free …

Comments

  1. Cute. I’m sure not intended to be exhaustive.

  2. Cute huh? Ok, I’ll try to step it up then ;) Thanks for reading Troy. We never did make it to the Porterhouse. Let me know if you are ever in Boston.

  3. Paul Stead says:

    You didn’t mention the evil celebrity.

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