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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

America’s Unhealthy Celebrity Obsession

The headlines this week have been saturated with news of Lamar Odom and his overdose on a potentially lethal drug cocktail of cocaine and what is being called “Herbal Viagra” at a Nevada Brothel.  Against medical odds, the NBA star has awoken from his coma, and has been responsive. He’s made great progress and doctors are staying positive for his full recovery. But you probably already know this. In fact, you probably even know the exact pattern of the wallpaper that covers his hospital room. That last sentence maybe an exaggeration, but my point is, that we have become engrossed in celebrity culture, particularly, celebrity mishaps.
Lamar Odom’s overdose, and resulting medical instability is tragic yes; the former L.A. Laker star is obviously in a lot of pain, and needs serious help. But is it really necessary to wait at the edge our seats, awaiting the next update on the star’s condition and an updated version of details surrounding the accompanying controversies? It seems that our preoccupation with pop culture news has turned into an almost voyeuristic obsession with celebrities, and their DUI’s, illicit extra-martial affairs, messy divorces, stints in rehab, and, in Odom’s case, drug overdoses. We are increasingly fascinated with celebrity faux-pas and publicly documented slip ups: the more positive, functional aspects of a celebrity’s life, we deem irrelevant and unworthy of our attention.
Take for example, Lamar Odom, who has lead an impressive 15-year professional basketball career in which he played for such teams as the LA Clippers, the Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angels Lakers, not to mention his two consecutive years (2009 and 2010) as a NBA Championships winner, and bronze medal win for the American national team at the 2004 Olympics. Yet his reaching the height of his fame was not the result of these accomplishments. Odom’s name didn’t really captivate people’s attention until he was found in a drug-induced coma at a brothel (having reportedly spent $75,000 on sex and drugs within a three- day period). What does that say about our culture, when our interest in a person increases in the wake of their near-demise?
Some may argue that their Real Housewives binge watching (which again is centered around watching people achieve their ultimate downfall via catfights, divorces, and general scandal) is all in good fun: I mean what’s the harm in a little reality TV? But is that really true? At what point does our occasional indulgences in pop culture phenomenon become an unhealthy, even sick, fixation on the tumultuous lives of the rich and famous?
In her Huffington Post article “American Have an Unhealthy Obsession with Celebrities”, Jo Piazza sums this up perfectly: “It can be argued that celebrity obsession is mere escapism. In fact, these are the things that professionals, including doctors, lawyers, politicians and judges sheepishly tell me: “I watch the Kardashians to decompress.” Life is hard; the news can be too depressing to watch. But does that really justify our heightened levels of tabloid consumption? Piazza goes onto say ”Our escapism has gone beyond mere escapism. The noise that celebrities create in our brains is helping to turn us into zombies who look up to celebrities as role models and often blindly follow their advice.”
My real concern is the example we are setting for future generations. What are we really telling children and adolescents when we glorify tabloid stories? What are we ultimately saying other than that fame, status, and recognition comes in the form of sex, drugs, and controversy? I think it’s time we redirect our attention away from the superficial and back to the substantial. It’s high time that we start caring more about the Syrian Refugee Crisis rather than the latest celebrity to enter rehab.