March 29, 2006
THE MYSTERY OF CELEBRITY
A bit more on the subject of celebrity: we can't live with them and we can't seem to live without them. They are particularly abundant here on the East End in the summer, so we have a chance to happen upon them in the flesh, as it were, and not only at the distance of the screen or television. So what do they represent to us?
First of course, if we are talking about actors/actresses, then we are taken with their ability to create diversion, escape and, rarely, express profound feelings and introspection as we view them going through their paces living out some adventure, challenge or tragedy scripted for them by writers/producers. In this dimension we are actually thankful for them for having the talent to lift us from the everyday concerns and contexts of our lives and to spend a bit of time in the world they create. When they do their job well for us, we really don't see them as anything apart from their roles. Just think of some very successful villains you have recently encountered in the theater or on television. The very image of that person can conjure up for us feelings of anger, distaste, revulsion even. If we saw them in Starbucks we might have at least a momentary pang of those feelings even as we understood them now as people existing outside that role.
Beyond gratitude or thankfulness, then perhaps comes a sense of living vicariously through them, their glamorous or privileged lives. We might revel in finding out facts about their private lives, the special parties in large mansions by the ocean, the hustle and bustle through the most expensive shops as they pick up the expected toys and trinkets that mark them out as special people. But then of course, another feeling may creep into our awareness relative to them. Yes, you guessed it: envy. We may become envious of their special place in society, one gained by virtue of pleasing us [or at least a sufficient number of us] to be sure.
So we are stuck between two worlds. On the one hand, we like the results of what they do for a living, i.e., entertain us, but on the other hand we can become resentful of how well they are rewarded for doing this. This brings us to the third dimension of our relation to celebrity: nothing gives us more pleasure than to see them in real confusion and distress. At the checkout stand in every supermarket are the tabloids which flash out wonderfully lurid headlines, buttressed by appropriately matching photos of stars in varying degrees of distress and dissolution. Marriages perpetually on the rocks, endless revelations of disappointment and vulnerability, sickness, drug and alcohol dependence, children gone astray, physical illness etc. etc. This is the balance. Our lives may be pedestrian and devoid of any of the trappings of celebrity, but at least we say to ourselves, we somehow have managed to maintain a semblance of stability and reality to our existence. Oops, got to run, I don't want under any circumstances to miss the next episode of "24." Let me know what you think.
Frank Mosca Ph.D. is a marital counselor and life coach with private practices in Hampton Bays and Garden City. His views on things can be seen at frankmosca.com.