Kids’ Passionate Desire for Celebrity is Heart-Breaking

broken-heart.jpgIt’s dripping in irony that Newsweek’s cover story makes a headline morality play “What are Celebs Teaching Kids” while featuring the celubutante divas of the pop-tart scene front and center to cash in and sell a few extra magazines.

I’ve already written about this particular tipping point of toxicity.

Kirsten Scharnberg’s Chicago Tribune article summed the trickle down effect, “Elementary school kids log onto Web sites where debates center on issues such as whether Duff would ever accept a role that required nudity, whether heart throb Zac Efron of the Disney TV movie “High School Musical” is gay, whether a Connecticut girl is truthful in her claims that she “made out with” Dylan Sprouse, one of the twin 13-year-olds who star in “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.”

Instead, let’s open a dialogue on what happens when kids try to create celebrity for themselves via digital video escapades. According to yesterday’s New York Times article, star-struck teens are now staging media wackiness just to be a part of it.

Some are “acting out” in a cinema vérité ratings war for self-celebrity, jockeying for social status, dares, attention, and affirmation.

Some videos go ballistically ‘viral’ on the internet out of sheer goofiness…

Look no further than the self-proclaimed “godfather of fence-plowing” who recorded his cousin hurling himself into a segment of fence, received 75,000 hits on his YouTube video, and started an unintentional trend of teen copycat vandalism.

His comment in the New York Times?

“A week ago, no one knew who I was—now my name has been on every news and talk show…I don’t care if it’s for something stupid. I was on Fox News cracking jokes. Maury Povich called me today…So I’m known as the fence-plowing kid…At least I’m KNOWN.”

That’s bloody sad.

And speaking of bloody, much more disturbing is news that kids are staging fights with some serious assault and battery style pummeling and damage…creating ‘media violence’ firsthand.

There’s an entire site, “Pure Street Fights Video Archive” (PSFights.com) that is an unbelievably raw and depressing statement on the human race.

Teen antics that once were limited to post-weekend high school hallway buzz or rowdy frat-house clean-ups are now preserved for posterity on webcam and posted on the web.

How idiotic is THAT to record a prosecutable offense which could land your keister in jail or create a criminal profile for college just because you wanted to drive traffic to your web page? Talk about twisted thinking.

Even IF a clip was set-up with full complicity, you’d have a tough time convincing police of that when your bloody buddy gets accused and tagged as a perp in a gang initiation rite of passage for street cred.

Kiss that scholarship adieu…And most of these brawls go far beyond ketchup. They seem to start as one thing and end up another, shades of Rodney King…

Condoning youth violence, mean-spirited set ups, sexual peekaboos and ridiculing peers with humiliating antics to gain celebrity via video is what psychologists would call, um, ‘negative behavioral reinforcement’…

 

Media becomes the distribution channel for nightmarish freakdom that goes far beyond ‘stupid pet tricks,’ silly stunts and ‘mentos moments’ to watch the fizz fly in a homemade rocket.

As lawyer Parry Aftab, founder of Wired Safety warned, “Anytime a teen is around friends now, anything they do can be filmed and put online…”

Phone cams take it mobile, and mayhem can take a spat or a jeer to a fist-to-cuffs in seconds.

Needless to say, YouTube may try to monitor videos that violate their community guidelines but where does one draw the line between a raucous mosh pit and a terrified teen? Someone horsing around and getting hurt vs. a planned ambush?

What about premeditated degradation vs. the voluntary ‘Girls Gone Wild’ behavioral phenom created by and catering to the MTV party circuit of peer pressure repurposed as a dare?

It’s all in the name of “celebrity.”

Youth seeking validation through ‘celebrity at any cost’ raises the ante when we talk about harmful effects of pop culture influence, and bears critical thinking at a variety of levels.

MOST teens have MUCH more common sense than any of this, and prefer to keep their celebrity fixation confined to tabloid fodder if they drink from that chalice to begin with…So let’s be clear, it’s NOT a numbers norm, simply a media trend that needs deconstructed.

Frank Baker, head of Media Literacy Clearinghouse is doing us all a great service when he posts articles and excellent deconstruction tips on his educational site before they duck behind ‘subscriber only’ walls.

Here are two on media celebrity that directly apply: Help Kids See Through the Media-Peddled Culture of Celebrity (Kansas City Star) and the Scharnberg piece I mentioned earlier about kids raised on ‘Brangelina’ and ‘Brit Pack’ fodder, Celebrity Worship by Today’s Youth Worries Experts.

Another article by Carlin Flora in Psychology Today suggests America’s fascination with celebrity is a symptom of a LARGER cultural obsession with the three A’s — affluence, attractiveness and achievement, noting that “celebrities seem to embody all of these.”

Those three A’s spell ‘aspiration’ to me…And though chasing fame and fortune is an ancient tred, ‘Generation M’ (8-18) is getting high doses of this wannabe messaging that haven’t even been tracked yet.

USA Today reported on a Pew Research Center poll that found 81% of ‘Gen Y’ youth (18-24) valued “getting rich” as their most important or second most important life goal, and 51% said the same thing about being famous!

Can we really presume this is happening in isolation of media and marketing’s IV drip of celebrity imagery coursing through kids’ veins 24/7?

With MTV’s “Sweet 16” glorifying wretched excess and shows like “Big Brother” turning ordinary Joes into celebrities with sponsorship deals, it’s readily apparent to me this stuff is not germinating in a dark shoebox out of nowhere. Pop culture is planting the seeds and fertilizing the soil with stuff that’s far from organic in kids’ nature.

This is not tweens crushing on Tiger Beat heartthrobs, this is ‘anything goes’ for media attention including violence and post your ‘nekkid bootie’ online just to try to become the next web-celeb.

There are very few RocketBoom/Amanda Congdon success stories or Numa Numa guys. (I can never remember his name!)

…But our celebrity culture seems to be the latest “opiate of the masses” drugging kids into believing they can become ‘overnight sensations’ with reckless abandon yet pay no price even if lines are crossed.

That seems far from lucid and borders on delusional, especially when kids start to see life as a game set up for their own amusement and humans as entertainment fodder.

Aside from desensitization to gratuitous coarseness and cruelty there are profound implications when kids start thinking insta-celebrity equals entitlement and ease.

I dare you to ask any REAL athlete, actress, or musician who’s made a living from entertainment how easy it is to become a ‘celebrity’ by hop-scotching over the hard work ethic sans training and devotion.

It’s easy to see how we landed in this quagmire of overnight millionaires and inflated expectations coming off the heels of the dotcom boom. Being in the ‘right place in the right time’ launched a serendipitous approach to easy-money mania with technology wunderkind.

Now, it seems chasing celebrity is an e-ticket (quite literally) via ‘dumbed down’ digital versions of fame to snag 15 minutes through any random lens of outrageousness.

You may sing badly and be a one hit wonder like the engineer in Berkeley (what was his name?) or mow the lawn buck naked on a motorscooter with a kazoo in your mouth to get a million hits on your MySpace page and land on Letterman…

But at the end of the day, you’re still ol’ “what’s his name” with bills to pay…

Unless of course, you’ve been arrested for on-camera bullying or roughing up a rival. Then you have even more bills to pay, but congrats, you’re no longer nameless or faceless! You’ll have your mugshot as your celebrity photo opp. Smile pretty.

404

Comments

  1. You get your A+, girl, on this treatise….Been watching your blog’s progress & it’s getting better all the time. Keep On Keepin On. Sincerely,
    An old mentor of yours from days gone by.

  2. I am wondering if you know where I could find statistics on how celebrities effect youths? You are doing a good thing here and I back you a hundred percent!!

  3. Tough one; statistics track specific behaviors, so you’d need to narrowcast the question a bit in your search.

    (e.g. stats on the influence of celebrity names impacting birth name popularity:
    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=184
    Stats on the influence of celebrity smoking in movies on teens: http://ash.org/moviesmoking.html

    That said, there are many implications (body image, etc.) that fall into the stat category if you’re trying to make a more global point. A nice round-up can be found at http://tbio.org (click on ‘shocking facts’)

    Market research firms have the MOST data of all (but for a hefty price!) as they take a macro view tracking the impact of celebrities re: co-branding efforts, product alignment, making $$$$:
    http://www.npd.com/corpServlet?nextpage=profile_s.html

    Basically, I’d say if you’re trying to track influence into quantifiable data, you’ll need to tag it to a specific behavioral dynamic. (e.g. % of eating disorders, rise in plastic surgery/body image, etc.—even then, stats imply influence but not concrete connectivity w/numeric figures)

    If you find any specific ones, send ‘em my way…I could sure use a hand! Thanks for your comment (and support)–Amy

  4. i am from india but i think this (celebrity fixation) is a major problem for the youth and can be solve by only 2 ways-
    1. inform or educate the youth to avoid falling into such things or try to avoid to easily get influenced by the celebs
    2.asking ,request the celebs to leave a message sayins-
    if u r my true fans u won’t try this out….or something of that sort if they do so it shall be great

  5. thank u all for so much information about celebrity fixation…..love u all-unnati

  6. Celebs are very influential, I’m sure many people from adults, kids, to older age all are deeply influenced by celebs. And we need to educate ourselves to avoid falling into such things.

Speak Your Mind

*

CommentLuv badge