Why we are obsessed with celebrities – celebrity cult worship

Why we are obsessed with celebrities and engage in celebrity cult worship

Why we are obsessed with celebrities and engage in celebrity cult worship

The following is a transcript of a reporter interviewing Celebrity Life Coach and Human Behavior Expert, Patrick Wanis Ph.D. about the reasons people are obsessed with celebrities, how celebrities are created and branded, why we worship celebrities but also enjoy tearing them down, and; the way that the media affects our thinking & beliefs and leads us to conform.

Also read “Teen loneliness, low self-esteem and the desire for fame” https://patrickwanis.com/blog/teen-loneliness-self-esteem-desire-fame/

Q:   The first thing I would like to know is about Brangelina. Brad and Angelina are kind of a brand, and they are so important for the entertainment industry; everybody is so obsessed with them. Why? And what is it about this specific couple that gets all the attention of the public?

Patrick:   Well, there are two key points and what I refer to as “levels.” The first point or level is that within the entertainment industry, there are people that are always looking to create a brand, something bigger than life, something bigger than the rest of us. And what I mean by that is, Brad was once voted as the world’s sexiest man alive and Angelina was also recognized as one of the most beautiful women alive and one of the most sexiest women. So when two powerful people like this come together you have the sexiest man and the most beautiful and sexiest woman, then the public, in its mind is creating something that is a symbol of perfection. It also becomes a brand where we look up to them and we all wish, we all dream, we all aspire to be like them. Just like “Oh, I wish I could be as handsome as Brad; I wish I could be as beautiful as Angelina; I wish I could be that couple.” But the concept and identification always begins within the media. The media creates that and what I mean by the media is that today more than ever there is so much competition to get the attention of the public because there were so many magazines and media outlets competing against each other…

Q:    Within the media you are talking about?

Patrick:   Yes, within the media. There are so many magazines, so many TV shows, so many Internet sites and they desperately need and are always on the lookout and searching to find something strong and powerful and loud and sexy to get the attention of the public. Thus, they are always looking to create something. Paris Hilton was a creation. That means someone, a group of people find her and say “We can make money for you, we can make money with you, we are going to do the following…” and they start to market her and then they pay her to go to big parties and at the parties people start to take photos of her, the paparazzi sell her photos to magazines, newspapers, websites and television and, voila, they have now created her; they have created a new star and celebrity.

Of course, Brad and Angelina were already stars but when you put these two powerful stars together you now have something else new and seductive and attractive that you can put on the cover of magazines. Of course, within Hollywood there is a lot of interest in Brad and Angelina because they are such big movie stars. What I mean when I say “big movie star” is that they not only make a lot of money but they make a lot of money for other people so if Brat Pitt is in a movie and the movie is successful, he is making money for a lot of people, and that makes him a powerful man. The same applies to Angelina Jolie. So within the industry they are already very powerful people and when you put the two powerful people together then every one starts to take more notice, everyone gives them more attention.

Q:    Of course, but I have a question. This is a specific to the entertainment industry, and yes, the public wants to be like them, but why is it the public is so interested in their lives, not only Brad and Angelina’s life but in the lives of all the famous couples that join in Hollywood? Do you think this is because people feel lonely and because people want to be like them?

Patrick:   It’s more than loneliness and at the beginning of this interview I said, there were two things, two levels. The second thing…

Q:    Yeah, the second thing…

Patrick:   The second point is about the public and an admiration for achievers and powerful people; It’s what you and I, as individual people look for and seek; and for a long time we have always looked up to celebrities. In the 1950’s, you had Audrey Hepburn, Marliyn Monroe and Cary Grant. So we have always looked up to people, but the difference is that we respected their talent; we admired them for their talent as actors and actresses and we also got interested in a little bit of their life, how they were living, and their glamorous lifestyle. We also tend to cling to people who entertain us or connect with us emotionally – via their singing, acting, dancing talent or the characters they portray in movies or on television.

Further, there is a vast difference in the way western society has evolved from the 1950s to the 2010s: Progressively in the western world we have become so much greedier than before. We have become much more lustful and we have become what I call much more narcissistic. That means we are always focused on getting more attention, on getting more praise, on getting people to notice us. And so, what we do is, we turn to celebrities because we dream about being like them, we dream about having their power, their money, their status, their glamorous life. Accordingly, we start to get lost in the myth; the myth that being a celebrity means my life will be easy, it will be beautiful, I will have everything I want and most of all I will be happy.

Q:    But when rumors come along like this, of Brad and Angelina breaking up, do you think this affects these people that are living vicariously through Brad and Angelina’s relationship or wishing to be like them? Does it affect the public?

Patrick:   Yes, it does affect them. Yes, it does and I will explain that. When we look at these people we are also looking to them so that we can escape our own life; the life that we feel is boring or mundane or mediocre or uninteresting or we think “My life will never get better and my life is so empty, so I look up to these people; and I think they have everything that I want to have, they are everything I want to be and they do all  the things that I would love to do; to take the big vacations, to drive in the cars, to dress in expensive clothes, to go to the parties.” Now the irony or the paradox is that we want to put people up high, on a pedestal, so that we can worship them and then there is a part of us inside, that also wants to tear them down, to bring them down off of the pedestal. So in one breath we are saying, “Oh this is so great, this is so fantastic” and then after a while we become more frustrated with our life, and we say “Oh good! Their life is falling apart and because they are having problems in their life, now I don’t feel so bad about the problems in my life” and occasionally it reminds us that “Oh, being a celebrity is not that fantastic.”

Further, we as humans love to get caught up in the drama, in the theatrics of what is happening today and so in 2010, the life and the lifestyle of a celebrity has become a real soap opera like you call it in Spanish “Telenovela” (Spanish TV soap opera.) So the celebrities are every day, living a Telenovela, and we are living it with them because now we know this story will never end. It won’t end at 2 o’ clock today; it won’t end in a month; it will keep going and going. And we also know that we are much closer to this Telenovela, the real life Telenovela than we are to the Telenovela on television because we are buying the magazine, we are seeing the pictures, we watch the interviews, there is much more of them for us to consume. But yes, there is a part of us and this is called our insecurity, our self-doubt and our jealousy that makes us want to see them also fail. It makes us want to see the celebrities fail rather than succeed and that stems from our ego, from our own failings; when things go wrong in our life, or we are feeling self-doubt or hopelessness and we look at our own life and we think “I can never ever be like him, I can never be like her, so if I cannot come up to him and her, I want him and her to come down to me.” Of course, this is a subconscious process not a conscious process, and it is based on easing our feelings of inadequacy and failure. Do you understand what I mean by that?

Q:    Yeah, I understand because it’s what is happening here with the soap operas and it is what happens in Hollywood with these couples but I have another question about it. Is this brand Brangelina going to keep being such an important brand or important couple for decades, like this myth and fantasy or do you think it’s something we just care about because we are living it in this precise moment?

Patrick:   Well, there are 2 reasons, or 2 things I want to say. First, the brand is also stronger if we call it a brand and or when their power becomes greater and much wider than before. For example, they are involved in other things outside of movies; they are also involved in charities and they have adopted children. Thus, their story becomes much more interesting and then because they have adopted children, we have something to watch that will go on for much longer as we watch the children grow and develop. But to answer your question, no it cannot last for much longer, it cannot last for decades unless they keep creating; creating in the form of movies and films and; if they can continue producing the events, the gossip, the drama, the theatrics. But remember too, we the public will get tired of them because someone new will come along.

See Brad and Angelina replaced someone before them and that couple or brand might have been Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, now Brad and Angelina are the next younger ones. Now in 5 or 10 years, because we are so vain and artificial, we will look at them and say “Ah, they are getting old” and then we will find the next young couple that we can create drama about and attach ourselves.

I would also like to add one more key point that I have not yet mentioned about the reasons we find ourselves so interested and obsessing with celebrities. I mentioned earlier that there are more media outlets now than ever before; we are saturated with information – websites, blogs, online radio and TV programs, magazine, newspapers, TV shows dedicated to celebrity gossip and of course, radio. I also said that these media outlets are always trying to outdo each other to catch and capture our attention, thus they look for the most dramatic and salacious news to report about celebrities. What we fail to realize, is that these outlets are also programming us. They are feeding us with the food in for the form of gossip that changes the way we think and feel; they tell us what to think and feel. I know some people will respond that only the weak are affected and influenced but that is not true.

In fact, research reveals that we unknowingly tend to change or shift our opinions based on the majority viewpoint and the emotion associated with that viewpoint. For example, we tend to find people to be more convincing when they are highly emotional in their speeches and presentations. That is why FOX News uses music, color and lots of emotion in many of their programs. It works in drawing in and influencing people. It is the same reason that we vote people into power – they make great, powerful swaying speeches that often have nothing to do with the actual content of what they are saying. Another example is Sarah Palin. Her popularity is based on the emotion and attitude she presents. It is convincing. That is the same reason that religious preachers and criminal defense attorneys use such fervor in their sermons and presentations; it sways people. And guess what? The tabloid magazines and the media do the same with celebrities – they present the juicy gossip with lots of drama, attitude and emotion.

Eventually, we start to accept not only the gossip and rumors as truth, but we also start to accept that these celebrities have any significance at all.

As I explained in my Success Newsletter: “The power of no!” https://patrickwanis.com/blog/the-power-of-no/,

 “Decades of research reveals that people tend to go along with the majority view, even if that view is objectively incorrect.

 In 2009, Vasily Klucharev, postdoctoral fellow at the F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging in the Netherlands, led a study that reveals that when people take on an opinion different to others in a group, a part of the brain associated with learning produces an error signal. A part of the brain that registers mistakes often referred to as the “oops area” sparks, and the “reward area” slows down, thus making us conclude and feel that we are being too different. 

“We show that a deviation from the group opinion is regarded by the brain as a punishment,” said Vasily Klucharev. Consequently, most people will change their mind and opinions.

“In the cited study, female participants were asked to rate on a scale of one to eight the physical beauty of 222 faces. Afterwards, researchers told each participant either that the average score was higher or that it was lower than her rating. Some participants were told the average rating was equal to her rating. The researchers then chatted with the participant before suddenly asking the participant to do the rating again. Most subjects changed their opinion toward the average.

 “Why do people tend to conform? Some people look to the group because they’re unsure of what to do, while others go along with the norm because they are afraid of being different. That response can then lead to following orders, even if those orders entail harming another person.”

My point here is that the media sways us and influences us to also take a greater interest in celebrities than we would otherwise. For example, I have a friend and I told her to be careful when allowing her 9 year old daughter to read the gossip magazines about her childhood idols (Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, etc) because first, it will make her think that what they present is truth and second, it will cause her to idolize celebrities and their lifestyle. So yes, we are teaching children to become obsessed with celebrities and to become intensely interested in their romantic lives and scandals.

Q:    Yes. Do you think that these celebrity couple scandals are created by the celebrities or do they have someone behind them that makes publicity for them and then tells them what to do such as “you are going to spilt up”, or is it just spontaneous and then other people searching for the gossip?

Patrick:   It’s a combination of both. In Hollywood there are always the publicists and we call it the “publicity machine” because its more than one person; it’s a group of people that will generate and create the scandal and the gossip and try to get some photos in to the magazines to keep the interest in the celebrity. So this is not new. And then there are the people who work for the celebrities (publicists, managers and business advisers) who focus on damage control when something goes wrong.

But remember also, the lives of most of these celebrities are naturally involved with scandal. Now that doesn’t apply to all of them. For example, there are some that are very quiet. If you take Denzel Washington, he is a very quiet private person; you take someone like Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, who have been a couple for over 20 years, they were very quiet, they were very private; now they are separating so people are talking a little more interest in them and the gossip has already begun about who Susan Sarandon is dating. But you also have the celebrities, who create their own drama. For example, Mel Gibson. He goes and makes a racist comment against the Jews. He gets drunk, he makes a racist comment that becomes a scandal because he makes racist comments against the most powerful group in Hollywood; and Hollywood is more than offended and they are quick to respond and next; what does Mel Gibson do? He leaves his wife for a much younger woman. So sometimes, the celebrities create their own scandals and they don’t need a publicist to do it for them. You also have Michael Richards and his racist rant against black people – and he was not drunk. And you also have Morgan Freeman, 72 who was allegedly dating his 27-year-old step granddaughter.

Q:    We didn’t know that.

Patrick:   It could be gossip; it could be truth. Either way, it supports my contention – the media creates the interest or the gossip and the public feed off it, and eventually no one knows what is truth and what is a lie.

Q:    Yeah.

Patrick:   So a lot of these celebrities also create problems and create scandals and create gossip and sometimes the publicist wants the gossip to get out because the more attention that the celebrity gets, then the more magazines that are sold and the more tickets are sold to the celebrity’s movies. So, if a new movie is in the works or about to be released, and a scandal can be created that pleases the public and makes the public like the celebrity and want more of them, then the more people will buy tickets out of curiosity, connection and attraction.

Q:    And what will happen if they spilt up, what will happen to them? Are they going to keep being famous? Will this negatively affect their image or totally the opposite?

Patrick:   No, When two powerful people come together, it creates a bigger fire, it creates a more powerful engine, a more powerful machine, but even when they are separate, if they were to spilt, they would still be very powerful because they are individually powerful and influential with the public and they are powerful within Hollywood. So they are powerful in terms of the work that they do creatively and the work that they do for charity and then they are powerful for the public so even if they were to separate, then we would want to know “Well, is Brad going to go back to Jennifer Aniston, is Angelina Jolie going to find a new man, is she going to talk to her father because she doesn’t talk to her father John Voight, etc? So to answer your question, I don’t think that that is the end of them, it will be just the end of the silly name that the media gave them “Brangelina”, which is just a catchphrase; what we call in English catchphrases, something that attracts attention. That we can repeat and that immediately expresses the meaning.

Q:    Something catchy that you can repeat.

Patrick:   Yeah like Brangelina. In entertainment we are always seeking catchy, cutesy or attractive names and titles; in a similar way that Terri Bollea called himself “Hulk Hogan.”

Q:    Yeah.

Patrick:   So, we try to give them a catchy name so that we can relate to them and which makes it more fun, more interesting, exciting and intriguing but which also describes clearly what we are talking about i.e. Brangelina clearly signals that this is the combination of Brad Pitt and Angeilina Jolie and that they are one unit now.

Q:    Yeah. How should I refer to you?

Patrick:   Well, I am a Celebrity Life Coach and Human Behavior & Relationship Expert.  All of my focus and attention is what causes us to behave the way we behave; what causes us to believe the things we believe, and how do our thoughts and feelings effect our behavior and can we change our thoughts and feelings so we can change our behavior and then change the results in our life.

Q:    Okay and why do you have interest in celebrities and in the type of reactions that people have towards them?

Patrick:   The way that we interact with celebrities reflects a lot of how we are acting as a society and what we are thinking and what we are feeling; also the way that we interact or the way we respond to celebrities reveals a lot about the way society is evolving, it’s consciousness and what it is experiencing, thinking and feeling. There is also the dynamic of the way that the media influences us and the way we think and feel. I didn’t decide that I would work with celebrities, I just worked once with celebrities and then the word got out and other people started to recommend me to work with them. Also before I began to study hypnosis, the mind and Neuro-linguistic programming, my background was in entertainment and I used to work on radio and television; so I understand the mind of a creative person and I am not trying to be egotistical or arrogant here, but I am saying I do have an understanding of what is the real motivation behind someone wanting to be an actor. Is it because he wants to express the talent and the art? Or is it because no one listened to him when he was a child or no one took any notice of him? Is he the actor still trying to get the attention that he never got from his parents? Do you understand what I mean by that?

Q:    Yeah, it’s a very good question.

Patrick:   And we must remember that there is a difference today between the celebrities who are actors, singers or dancers and the celebrities who are reality stars; the reality stars are not interested in expressing an art form such as acting or singing or dancing; they are not interested in entertaining. They are only interested in getting attention and becoming famous and that’s a very, very different kind of celebrity.

Q:    Becoming famous without working hard for it.

Patrick:   Well yeah, that’s Paris Hilton. That’s the people from Jersey Shore which is a big TV show in America; another example would be the people from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”; an example of all of these different TV shows that are creating celebrities and stars who are famous for nothing. And these sorts of shows that create instant stardom based on no contribution or real talent further drive what I call “The Princess Myth” which I have written about in my blog: “I don’t have to do anything and I will just be given everything, I will be pretty & beautiful. I will have the castle and I’ll have the money and the power and the diamonds and tiaras and I don’t have to do anything for it. I will be rich and an heir to a fortune by marrying my prince – someone powerful (or in Paris’ case by being born into it.)”

 It is these reality shows and the Princess Myth that creates more narcissism in our society and eventually the narcissism leads to greater depression, unhappiness and even resentment and frustration.

Q:    That’s not the case with Brad and Angelina.

Patrick:   No. Brad and Angelina have a talent, they have a gift, they are entertaining and they have a skill; they have an ability and they have an art form. So that’s a different kind of celebrity. And when one is working with someone who has a gift and a talent, and you can help them to overcome their pain or the past, then they become an even better performer, they become an even better actor.

Q:    So you work with celebrities; you work with actors; you work with, singers, etc?

Patrick:   Yeah with singers, dancers, actors, models, musicians and one of the reasons that I can have a lot of success with them is because I don’t worship them. I treat them as human beings and therefore I can speak the truth to them.

Q:    What would you say to someone that worships them and someone that lives their life based on the life of Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie or the name, any name?

Patrick:   Well I would humbly say “Put more focus and attention on creating the things you want in your life rather than living your life through someone else’s life because you will always feel empty when you are trying to live through someone else’s life. Go and create your own dreams. Find your dream and work everyday on your dream because that will give you more satisfaction, more meaning. And also ask yourself why am I infatuated, obsessed or fascinated with the celebrity because if you look in the mirror you will see that something that obsesses you with that celebrity is something that’s missing in you: maybe you never got attention, maybe you no one ever appraised you, maybe no one ever told you that you were beautiful. Maybe you wanted to act but your parents told you cannot make money, or maybe your parents told you were dumb so you have stopped and you are frozen up instead of living your life. So go live your life by living your dreams and pursuing your dreams and taking action to make your dreams come true.”

Q:    I think that, that is a great conclusion for what we are discussing.

Patrick:   My pleasure.

Q:    That’s a perfect sentence to close our interview.

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