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The negative effects of the media on celebrities
Media: Celebrities and how it portrays them
"Celebrity breakdowns" may have existed as long as the star system but are now investigated and exposed to a degree arguably considered excessive. In this digital era, it is not difficult to find information about celebrities, no matter how personal; private addresses of stars have been posted in both gossip columns and traditional media outlets like USA Today. And now, thanks to uncensored weblogs like that of celebrity-basher Perez Hilton, those in the spotlight suffer the humiliation and disgrace of having statements about them - true or untrue - broadcast for millions to find.
The extent and quality of celebrity news in the media appears especially inordinate today, multiplying and intensifying at such a rate that "legitimate" news has fallen in precedence. Whether it likes it or not, the public knows more about Britney Spears and how many pills she swallowed than about many political issues.
Mainstream media content is most likely increasing in sensationalism due to competition with celebrity news sources, particularly those online. As said by marketing author David Giles, "The defining characteristic of a celebrity is that it is essentially a media production, and its usage is largely confined to the twentieth century."
After researching relevant articles and performing content analysis on entertainment web sites for my senior project, it was concluded that broadcasts containing information potentially harmful to the well being of celebrities was present in both mainstream to entertainment-focused sources. Thus, based on the content researched, as well as the outlets analyzed for this project, it was found that the media may indeed negatively affect celebrity behavior and psyches.
Trends toward sensationalism in mainstream news have been found in previous studies, most likely as a result of competition between traditional media outlets and celebrity-news sources. These statements were not disproved by this study, allowing it to be said that competition between the two media types may result in more efforts to investigate and cover the latest, boldest, most intimate information relating to celebrities.
Maintaining a particular image is made difficult by the media, which makes the effort to share information concerning a celebrity's life. These details, public or personal, may cast a negative light upon him or her - and they may not even be true. The fact that there were more counts of exaggeration, opinion and potential falsity means that content does not even need to be supported for viewers to read it and generate opinions from it, rendering media credibility relatively inconsequential in this study. It could be said that the high credibility of blogs in the eyes of readers is not negatively affected by unsupported or questionable information.
The publication of such information may prove detrimental to the health of a celebrity, as the constant pressure of maintaining a certain public image can result in various psychological conditions, such as anxiety disorders, as well as chronic stress, the symptoms of which include eating disorders, body aches, insomnia, anxiety, anger and depression. Also, in attempting to maintain a particular image, celebrities may repress rage, fear or sadness caused by negative or excessive media coverage, which may lead to psychological and physical damage.
There are many ways in which celebrities are negatively affected by extreme media coverage that are difficult to demonstrate or that may only apply to certain stars. For instance, the fear of being stalked may increase anxiety and supplement issues already present, such as mental conditions. Also, cruelty on the part of media practitioners may have its effects on celebrities as well, but such intentions are difficult to prove at best.
Additionally, readers can leave comments to celebrity blogs, which are often critical of celebrities if not unduly cruel and insensitive, as if celebrities do not read them and their words have no effect. It is unfair that blog posts can be anonymous, rendering a celebrity incapable of knowing who exactly sees them negatively, and giving him or her virtually no chance for defense against such scrutiny.
The mere frequency or repetitiveness of coverage of a certain celebrity may be enough to cause that person stress, anxiety or another form of physical and mental harm, as suggested by the study on community stress levels in Hong Kong following the 2004 tsunami. While infrequent negative press alone may not have a considerable influence on celebrity mindsets and behavior, it may have undesirable effects when broadcast multiple times, whether by the same publication or various ones.
There is no law against broadcasting a story or photo too many times, so long as information was legally obtained, but the effect on celebrity psyches and behavior of repetitive publication or broadcasting of a single topic was not investigated in this study, as the level of coverage frequency sufficient to affect a celebrity's well-being would differ among stars and again would be difficult to determine.
To read the rest of my senior project, please click here for the PDF.