A Celebrity Is a Product, NOT a Person

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A Celebrity Is a Product, NOT a Person

Believing Celebrities are Real People Carries Many Dangers

Becoming a product while still wandering around in the body and identity of a mortal has the potential to turn out not too good for anyone involved.

Many years ago, I reviewed and published a story in The Spokesman Review newspaper about a book titled The Culture of Celebrity by Richard Schinkel. This was back in the early 1980s, so I’m not surprised that you can’t find my review or maybe even the book anymore; although, it appears to have been re-published in 2000 under a new title, Intimate Strangers: The Culture of Celebrity, available on Amazon.

One of the strongest memories from this book, was Schinkel’s description of the celebrity as “the most desirable neighborhood in the global village” or something very close to that. Since the early 1980s to today, has enough changed in the world of celebrity madness to let us see that the once desirable community has morphed into a dangerous neighborhood?

Celebrity culture's phenomenon of people fascinated by the lives, achievements, and scandals of famous or influential individuals, such as actors, singers, athletes, politicians, and socialites, no doubt, still has some benefits, I’m sure. For certain, it also has some harmful effects on society and individuals.

Celebrity culture is a complex and pervasive phenomenon with advantages and disadvantages for society and individuals. Awareness of potential benefits and harms of celebrity culture is vital to consuming it with moderation and discernment, but who among us is capable of doing this unerringly and always being correct and accurate in our assessments?

As icons of success, glamour, and influence, Celebrities camoflauge a complex and often exploitative industry profiting from them. A celebrity is not just a person but a product carefully crafted, marketed, and sold to the masses. Allow me to repeat:

A celebrity is not just a person, but a product carefully crafted, marketed, and sold to the masses. 

New Celebrity Products

Creating a celebrity involves many factors, such as talent, charisma, appearance, media exposure, social media presence, endorsements, and partnerships. However, these factors do not necessarily reflect their true identity, values, or interests. Rather, they are shaped by the demands and expectations of the market, the fans, and the stakeholders who invest in the celebrity brand.

The profit motive behind manufacturing a celebrity is evident in many aspects of the celebrity industry. For example:

Dealing with so many people and organizations demands presenting various personas to each, which carries negative consequences for the celebrity and the society. For the celebrity, being a product brand and maintianing different personas can lead to loss of authenticity, identity crisis, mental health issues, substance abuse, or burnout. For society, it can lead to unrealistic standards, distorted values, superficial culture, or idolatry.

Therefore, it is vital to recognize a celebrity is not just a person but a product of a complex and often exploitative industry that creates and profits from them. A critical and informed perspective on the celebrity phenomenon can help us appreciate the humans behind the products and question the motives and methods behind creating a celebrity to realize the various forms of manipulation that may be at work:

Let’s chat about the elephants in this celebrity green room, two elephants actually: Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.

Bedtime for Desantis

Both guys were second-rate, B-list, or lower celebs during their highest point of celebrity. As Reagan's career wound down, he co-starred in second-rate movies about a monkey and himself. He was not Humphry Bogart. He was not even Pee-Wee Herman; he was a clown with a chimp or a chimp with a clown, depending on whose agent was more involved in the marketing campaign.

BUT the name Ronald Reagan had a nice familiar ring to it—kind of like Ivory Soap or Ford Mustang or Healthy Choice Frozen Dinners.

What Ronald Reagan had was a kind of stupid Irish luck, smile, and a deep enough intellectual limitation to buy into the great Communism scares of his era and parlay that, along with mostly racist attitudes and beliefs, into a spiel that somehow fed red meat to the knuckle-dragging masses of Americans who equated name recognition with celebrity. Reagan launched his POTUS run in Philadelphia, Mississippi? You could not have found a more perfect location for the Nixon era, southern strategy of exploiting white Americans underlying racism. Look that shit up

After Ronald came The Donald (not the duck who, despite a speech handicap, had some humor and charm, no the guy, the monster.)

What more can anyone say about or add to deepen the tragic depth of disaster of a horrible, fake businessman on a bullshit TV show pretending to be competent and authentic, and people in love with celebrities bought that shit.

On The Apprentice, Trump used his name recognition to fool millions of people into believing he was something other than a lying, criminal, con man of the worst type, a malignant narcissist with no conscience, no shame, and no credibility.

But most importantly, for our purposes here, Donald Trump manipulated the mechanisms of celebrity creation to make people think he was a celebrity. He rode this nonsense and myth all the way into the White House by flat-out lying, telling people what they wanted to hear or feeding their fears about what might be happening in their lives and offering them an imaginary space in his imaginary Hall of Fame for the mere price of whatever they could send him in the greatest con of a life dedicated at all times and in all ways to perpetuating cons. Trump monetized celebrity beyond anything we’ve ever witnessed before.

Lest anyone has forgotten recent American political history and how far the Donald has dragged us into his celebrity version of an American Carnage nobody could see but that he promised to end by being elected with three million fewer votes than his opponent in 2016.

Below are stark images of the limitations and the tragic consequences of not being able to discern the differences between name recognition and celebrity-at-all-costs:

Contrast that with this:

Again, thinking the changing of a human being into a product to be sold and consumed and called a celebrity has risks easy enough to see and recognize if one has the courage and honesty to face it.

Of course, you may prefer to believe every person presented to you on TV is actually just like they are presented: a nice guy, a lovely, tireless virginal mommy, a fast-driving, hard-hitting, sneeze-free, allergy-avoidant master of his destiny, a superhero because after all he plays one in the movies. If you want to believe in the presentation of this product, and it entertains or sparks joy to believe this –– go for it.

What could possibly go wrong?

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