Can Celebrity Culture ever be a good thing?

Can Celebrity Culture ever be a good thing?

As highlighted in my last blog post, it is worrying that some celebrities are teaching young people that no one cares about them. I’ve shown in previous blogs that there are positives to this culture but I wanted to find out from ‘insiders’ if they believed celebrity culture could be a good thing. I asked Jennifer Lynn (former employee of MTV), Sone Aluko (footballer), and JB Gill (member of boyband JLS) what they thought about this and this was their response.

Lynn believes that celebrity culture can have a positive impact on young people through “the media highlighting people who have worked hard for their success, who have given back to the community and who are genuinely grateful for everything they receive”. Emma Watson would be a prime example of this, using her success in the Harry Potter films to launch a campaign that calls for gender equality. Lynn adds that if the celebrities do good things and the media then reports them, this should ultimately circle round to the young people and be a positive influence, which would relate to the ripple effect I have mentioned before.  However Aluko (2015) states that

“The focus will always be on what sells the most over any moral responsibilities to its viewers. Inevitably this will always mean the more superficial and eye-catching glamorous parts of life will be the focus and define celebrity culture”.

This is worrying for our young people as it creates an image that is often unattainable. Aluko believes that “celebrity culture could do a lot more for breaking down discriminations, prejudices and insecurities that young people may have or encounter”. More ethnic minority role models, particularly from areas out with “sport and entertainment”, are needed to create positive role models for people who may not have one.

If celebrity culture can change and raise up a different kind of celebrity, this may have a better influence over our young people. Gill (2015) notes the importance in society of creating celebrities who “embody positive traits”, as this should hopefully result in a positive impact upon young people and children of today. However, Aluko (2015) reminds “that celebrity culture is not always admirable, morally correct or even factual but it’s mainly just for entertainment and shouldn’t be seen as an example to follow”.

This culture can be used to influence young people positively, and because young people are attracted to who is popular, it is therefore important for these celebrities to have, in Gill’s (2015) words, “a strong moral compass and take pride in the influence they have”. Where they actually acquire this moral compass is an interesting question. Aluko (2015) highlights that being a good role model for young followers is important to football’s governing bodies and clubs, revealing that being a good role model is practically a part of the footballing profession. However, most celebrities do not have this governing body who look out for how they behave. Instead they may have publicists and PR teams whose goal is to make the celebrity’s name known at all costs. Perhaps celebrities should also embrace the responsibility that comes with the status? Compared to footballers who have a governing body, Gill states that often celebrities are “governed and driven by money, work, fame, adoration, their experiences and a whole host of other things”. Gill also states that celebrity culture should have a positive influence and the people who can do this are the individual celebrities and also the people who influence them.

Do you know who is influencing your young people? Young people are easily influenced but as part of the Church we should be providing our young people with strong, faithful role models. Would you class yourself as a great role model?

Elyse Mackinnon
Former student president