Posted by: Shel | January 14, 2011

The Culture of Celebrity

Our TV has been on only once a week since the week before Christmas. I finally took the plunge and drew a hard line with regard to TV viewing. And there’s a reason for that. Celebrities. I detest them. I know there are some admirable ones out there, don’t get me wrong. But, by and large, I detest celebrities. The snobbery. The duality. The sense of entitlement. The way they appear in public service announcements to guide us morally, even when their own lives are in shambles. I have always had a dislike of celebrity worship. But now that I have children, and have been exposed to children’s programming along the lines of Disney and Nickelodeon and their ilk, it behoves me to say . . . “Ew!”

Disney and Nickelodeon have a vested interest in creating a new generation of celebrity-worshippers. It’s central to their very existence: get kids worshiping celebrity status at a young age, and you’ve got viewers for life. Just take a look at the celebrity-themed shows on Disney and Nickelodeon — not just shows that have a celebrity cast, but shows in which the central theme is that of being or becoming a celebrity:

Jonas (three famous singing brothers)

Hannah Montana (famous teen rock star juggles celebrity with “normal life”)

Shake It Up (celebrity wanna-bes performing on dance show)

Victorious (celebrity wanna-bes developing their singing talents) 

iCarly (teens gain celebrity status through internet show)

Sonny with a Chance (the lives of teen actors on a variety show)

I’m with the Band (yeah, it’s about people performing in a band)

Then there are the specials like: Camp Rock (Uhm, it’s a camp . . . where people learn to rock . . . you know: Camp Rock)

High School Musical (self explanatory)

Starstruck (regular girl has romance with celebrity)

Even shows which were previously devoid of celebrities, like Zack and Cody, end up bringing a celebrity on board — in the case of Zack and Cody, singing sensation “Little Little” joins the cast.

And Disney, in particular, really gets their money out of their teen and tween celebrities because every actor also sings and every singer also acts. In addition to the big-name singer/actors like Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place), The Jonas Brothers (Jonas and Jonas-LA), and Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana), you can also catch the latest vocal offerings by The-Guy-Who-Plays-Chad-on-Sunny-With-A-Chance, The-Gal-From-Good-Luck-Charlie, That-Other-Guy-From-Sonny-With-A-Chance, The-Gal-Who-Plays-Bailey-on-Zack-and-Cody, Zack-and-Cody, Sonny-From-Sonny-with-A-Chance, and Nickelodeon isn’t far behind — you can already listen to the crooning of The-Gal-Who-Plays-Carly-on-iCarly . . . none of whose names I could be bothered to look up. You get the idea.

I mentioned to my mother-in-law recently that the preoccupation with teen celebrity seems particularly intense these days, and she responded with a shrug, saying, “Meh. We had teen celebrities back in our day, too.” But that’s not the point. My problem is not simply that teen celebrities exist. My problem is that we have glorified their lives to the point where the majority the TV programing directed at elementary, tween, and teen kids revolves around the lives of those who are, or are in the process of becoming, celebrities — with all the false morality, dubious ethics, and disastrous lifestyle choices inherent in celebrity status. And that’s just not for me, nor is it what I want for my family. So be patient with me when I don’t know the latest happenings on a given television program — or even what programs exist. I’m only watching an hour of TV a week, and that suits me just fine.


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