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More Thoughts On Celebrities: Do We Build Them Up Just To Knock Them Down?

Updated on November 10, 2009


I wrote a blog several months ago asking the question, “Celebrities: Do We Build Them Up Just To Knock Them Down?” (Read it here And while I love to read the comments that people post to my blog postings, I was really intrigued to get an email asking about this particular post. So here are some more thoughts on Celebrities: do we build them up just to knock them down? – Don’t Get Me Started!

The email read as follows:

Hi mate

My name is David and I'm a student in the university of Queensland in Australia.

Thanks to my communication class I'm writing an essay just about the question you raised in your article: "Do we, as an audience, enjoy the downfall of celebrities?"

During my research I encountered your article, and excited as I was finding it, I have to say that I didn't really see an adequate/satisfying answer to this question..

Seeming to know what you're talking about, I'd like to hear a bit more about your opinion regarding this issue.

I appreciate your answer




Here was my response:


Well you had me at “mate” – love that. Seriously though, I’m so pleased you wrote and I hope that my answer will give you some clarity regarding my thoughts on the topic.

First a little history of me. I’ve been writing my blog since 2006. I usually post four to five times a week so while I remembered the topic, I honestly had to go back and re-read this post to find out which one it was and whether or not I’d be able to answer your question.

I think the essay you’re writing brings up a really great question but I also have to say that due to the fact that I am not a psychologist of any kind, I don’t know that I’ll have the adequate/satisfying answers you’re looking for on this topic. You see, what I was trying to do in the post you read was to “ask the questions.” I once worked for someone who said all the time, “I don’t have the answers I only have the questions and the hope that the people I’ve surrounded myself with are bright and talented enough to provide me the answers.” In a way, this is what I was doing with the post. I wanted to see if someone out there had the answer to this question as opposed to supplying one for my readers. I wanted to evoke discussion.

And since you’ve written to me  and started the discussion, here are my thoughts. I believe that there is a part of all of us who look at celebrities and more than who or what they are, we look at how they are treated by others and what they have be it financially or physically or something else. The thing is that I believe we want to believe we could be famous or a celebrity if we “got the right breaks.” So all ready there’s some built in animosity or hostility. Take Oprah for example, no one wants to hear about her putting her weight back on because we think, “Well, if I had a trainer, a chef and all her money I could be thin so there’s no reason she shouldn’t be thin.” We don’t think of the emotional baggage that she has that causes her to eat or not do what’s healthy for her, so we criticize her and we lay blame on her that we’re out of shape too. By saying, “If I had…” we immediately begin the process of turning what would seem like jealousy into an insidious mirror that does not tell us the truth about ourselves. We focus on all that we do not have, the opportunities not given us and I think on some level that makes us excuse ourselves for being fat or not having successes in our life because we don’t have Oprah’s advantages. Thus, although we understand logically how good Oprah is at what she does and most of us realize we couldn’t do what she does, there is a part of us that wants to “bring her down to our level” to make us feel better about ourselves. If it isn’t her weight, it’s something else. People are resourceful and will find the reason to try to “bring down a celebrity” and remember that the time you’re spending talking about or focusing on a celebrity’s rise and fall (that I suspect you’re living through vicariously) the less time you have to focus on yourself and more to the point, the things you don’t like about yourself.

The next piece to that is that I think you have to delve deeper into the meaning of “success.” We seem to have certain standards for success that include limos, appearing on television, magazines and whatnot instead of focusing on our own small successes we obtain and seemingly dismiss every day. An example, I have been in a loving relationship with the same man for 21 years. To a lot of people it seems unfathomable that two men could be in a monogamous relationship for so long or that anyone could, straight or gay for that matter. For me, it’s just part of who I am and what is in my life. I don’t treat my relationship like an Oscar given by the Academy but to many of the people I know who seemingly can’t find love (or find it for longer than five minutes) to them I am a success.  While I will readily admit that I feel I’m in a successful relationship, it’s not something I talk about all the time, see on the cover of a magazine so I’ll admit I might take it for granted.

Perhaps there needs to be a paradigm shift of what we see as success. If we could discover and celebrate our own success maybe we wouldn’t be so readily living vicariously through celebrities we either think we might be like (example, bi-racial girls who identify with Mariah Carey because she is bi-racial and the set of discrimination, etc. that comes with that being your life experience), want to be like or feel we could be better than if we had their breaks? Perhaps then we could celebrate people who are truly talented instead of being more into making or becoming celebrities. Andy Warhol said that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. The problem with that is that media and society is very greedy and in the age of reality television everyone will no longer settle for 15 minutes they want 5,000,000 minutes instead (and in some cases feel they deserve it). Why else do you think reality television has become such a success? Because people can become a household name overnight just by being on television.

As I said at the start of this, I don’t know if that answered your question or not. But I think if you look through history, whether it be philosophers in ancient Greece or Britney Spears, as long as there is a group of people it seems as though there will always be some we hold in higher esteem than ourselves. Maybe it’s like the old joke credited to Groucho Marx (I’ve also heard this credited to Woody Allen but I believe it was Groucho who said it), “I would never want to be the member of a club that would have me as a member.” Maybe we just have low self-esteem and we feel better about ourselves to idolize someone and also to see them fall from our grace.

Thanks again for writing in and I hope that helps in some way or as I said previously, “starts the discussion.”

All my best and good luck with the essay,


And while I never heard back from my university student, at least it made for another blog entry, right? Let me know your thoughts on Celebrities: do we build them up just to knock them down? – Don’t Get Me Started!

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    • BeccaHubbardWoods profile image

      Mizzery Chick 8 years ago from Outside your window...

      I think you've hit a lot of very valid points. I've found myself wondering many times why the media seems sooooo obsessed with celebrity heartache. It's like they want to point and laugh. I find it all very sad.