We live in a gilded age of fame — or is it a cage? Some would say that we’re soaring on an upward trajectory when it comes to social media and that the latitude of influencers is ever-spreading and ever-ripping, throughout society. We have never been more intimate with each other. We have never had more access to our idols. Now, we are privy to their deepest struggles, their political affiliations, their homes, their very lives are a spectacle, showcased on the many theaters of social media.
But, others would say that the so-called “coveted” celebrity status is nothing more than a vice. We elevate our icons, we fawn over them, grinning with our mouths yet scanning, always, with our eyes. Social media has become an unceasing vigil for people to monitor the actions of celebrities, even more so during this period of self-isolation. When upheaval occurs, we wait expectantly for a comment from them, then reverse our opinions and deprecate them for sharing their views as if they believe theirs hold more weight. If they experience a seismic shift in their lives — tragic or not — the internet devolves into pandemonium, speculating and demanding explanations.
It is, in effect, a 24/7 reality show, some scripted, and some extemporaneous. But the saturation of attention and the microscopic intensity they face begs the question: Is our treatment of celebrities justified? Do they deserve the same amount of privacy as us ordinary folk?
Many would say, with no hesitation, yes. Celebrities are people, no matter if they have “famous” attached to them — don’t we all have labels, adjectives to describe us? Their fame is simply that: A symptom of their jobs, whether it be modeling or acting or singing. It is a single dimension of their personality and they should not be scrutinized through only that lens, as if their popularity expands beyond them, rather than making up only a facet of their identity.
Most celebrities never purposely sought fame, after all. Perhaps the recognition, but they never dreamed of having paparazzi harass them for running the most quotidian errands. They never prompted the judgment, the loneliness and the insecurities. We shouldn’t take advantage of their fame and delude ourselves that they deserve it, people assert.
Every human being has inherent rights, and that includes the right to privacy. We all have profound vulnerabilities, secrets and knowledge that we guard near our hearts, and it would be naive to think it is different for celebrities. No matter how glamorous or self-assured they seem, they lack something. They long for something. And, just like the rest of us, they are not beholden to revealing themselves so blatantly.
Others don’t concur, positing that celebrities should whole-heartedly own their platform. They say, with matter-of-fact pragmatism, that they should embrace all that comes with fame because it is, in fact, a choice: No one sets up a YouTube channel without fantasizing, reaching a million subscribers. No one embarks on the path of music without imagining a roaring crowd of thousands, and no one becomes an actor without privately yearning for an Oscar. There are other components as well, such as the enriching experience of fulfilling their creative needs, but no one can deny that popular engagement is an integral factor.
There is a reason why those with fame often have similar occupations. Because those vocations rely on the audience, you can’t, after all, become a millionaire by plucking guitar strings to an empty amphitheater. They made their beds, dissenters claim. They should have considered all the possibilities, rather than blindly searching for the glory. They walked into their careers with their eyes wide open, and if they cannot endure the pressure, then it’s their prerogative to figure it out — not ours.
Moreover, with their fame comes great responsibility, and they have an obligation to exercise their influence mindfully. Perhaps our unrealistic standards for them are unjust, but what can we do? The disparity between celebrities and the average person when it comes to making an impact is exceptional.
Celebrities must be more cognizant of the rhetoric they use and the issues they promulgate. They must understand that, for many, they can seem larger than life. They must respect the depth of power they hold, because they can, potentially, mold minds through the hypnotic daze of fame. Those who don’t, people contend, are reckless not with themselves, but with others, especially the younger generation. Celebrities can indulge in anything they’d like, but utmost privacy is the one luxury they cannot afford.
Both extremes have legitimate points, but perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle — the personal intricacies of their lives should be left at their discretion. But their opinions, if they choose to express them, and their behavior should reflect their positions as role models for the groups they represent. They are imperfect, yes, but if they make a mistake, they should act accordingly and apologize. The vast majority of us ask, at the very least, that they evolve with their experiences, and that their fame both humbles and empowers them.
Featured Image via Emma