The Celebrity Obsession Problem

Dear Daughter,

Last week, a famous singer named Whitney Houston died unexpectedly. She was young, beautiful and insanely talented, so her death is considered a tragic one. Especially because it appears drugs might have been the cause.

It’s always kind of conflicting when famous people die. Even though we’ve never met the person, we’re still shocked and saddened when we hear of their death. We feel some sense of mourning, but might feel a little dramatic doing so because after all, this person is technically a stranger. We have no right to grieve in the way that their family and friends do, yet they were a part of our life in some way, so it’s somewhat legitimate to be sad. Maybe the death of a superstar makes us think of our own mortality, or that of our loved ones. Perhaps what we’re really mourning is the loss of such great talent.

What bothers me, though, is how the media has handled celebrity deaths in the past few years. I try not to be a “hate the media” type because I’ve worked in the media and never liked the label people put on us. But seriously, this past week, it seemed every TV station, at every hour of the day, was airing coverage of Whitney Houston. It started to feel a little overboard after awhile. My cynical self couldn’t help but wonder: a) if it was all for the goal of higher profits, and b) what other important news we were missing because of it.

One of my friends, Garry De Vries, had a similar sentiment and recently posted a profound statement about it on Facebook. I asked him if I could share part of it with you:

I respect the dead and I respect that Whitney Houston needed her moment but what about the others?… Why don’t we take the time to flash EVERY fallen soldier’s name and picture the day they pass at the end of newscasts as a sign of respect. They died so people like Whitney can be free and become famous yet we do not honor them like we should. How about we keep the flag at full staff for celebrities and keep the honor of half staff for people who dedicated their lives to our country or lost it in the line of duty. How about we talk more about the soldiers who lost limbs and are in wheelchairs and how we can help them instead of Lindsey Lohan’s next court date for being a drug-addicted idiot. How about instead of the Real Housewives and their egotistical lives we have a show about the widows of soldiers and single mothers and wives of soldiers overseas and help them.

Garry’s statement really hit me because it revealed just how much value our culture (myself included) places on The Celebrity. For some reason, we’ve become obsessed with the comings and goings of the rich and famous, and oftentimes those comings and goings are superfluous, having no real impact on our daily life. And the people who truly are making a difference—soldiers, teachers, scientists—usually go unnoticed and are sometimes even dismissed. This dichotomy sadly shows just how shallow our culture really is.

That’s not to say that Whitney Houston’s death did not deserve attention, because it did. Most people agree that she is one of the best singers—if not THE best—of our time. She has influenced many young musicians who have gone on to have their own successful careers. And I personally have several fond memories of lip synching via hairbrush to Whitney’s music during my childhood years. Her life does deserve a tribute, but so do the lives of many other influential people who will never receive the recognition they’re due, let alone 24/7 coverage on every TV station.

All this to say, Daughter… don’t get too caught up in the celebrity obsession that our society holds so dearly. It’s fun to know a little bit about what’s going on in celebrities’ lives, but not when they’re held on a pedestal that stamps out the efforts of those who truly deserve the credit. Let’s help shift the priorities of our culture and start paying attention to the real heroes.



Perception of beauty, true or false?

This video is a couple years old but I like to watch it every once in a while, as a reminder that the beautiful women we see in movies and magazines look the way they do because of lots of makeup, hairspray and Photoshop. Every woman wakes up looking like plain Jane, even models and celebrities. We need to stop trying to live up to Hollywood’s standards of beauty, because they’re not real.

Why you should be a Justin Bieber fan

Dear Daughter,

You’re funny about Justin Bieber. You go out of your way to proclaim that you do NOT like him or his music, yet I catch you singing his songs. You even made up a whole dance routine to “Never Say Never.” For someone who doesn’t like the Biebs, you sure do spend a lot of time talking about him. So I’m not convinced, my dear.

The thing is, I kind of want you to have Bieber Fever. Maybe not to the extent that you daydream about being his wife and you scream at the mention of his name. But I want you to respect him. Because I sure do.

I admit I’m kind of hard on pop music stars. Katy Perry gets most of my scorn, as you know, and Rihanna is becoming a close second. (By the way, shouldn’t Rihanna’s name be pronounced “Ree-hana?” Either that or it should be spelled Rhianna. Drives me crazy!) But Justin Bieber is one of the good guys, and I hope he stays that way.

Here’s why I’m a JB fan:

1) He’s uber talented. Unlike some artists who wouldn’t survive without auto tune  (*cough* Taylor Swift), Justin actually deserves to be a music star. His voice is amazing and he can play the drums better at age 17 than most drummers can play at age 50. We were worried there that once he hit puberty and his voice changed, he would be relegated to the list of has-beens, but he seems to be transitioning just fine.

2) He came from humble beginnings. We Americans love a good Cinderella story, and Justin definitely has one. He was raised by a single mom in a modest household. He didn’t have to go through Disney to rise to success. He started practicing his gift at a very young age, worked hard at it, and eventually got discovered by people who recognize true talent. That’s a lesson to kids that: a) you don’t have to be rich to be noticed, and b) hard work pays off.

3) He loves Jesus. In the documentary Never Say Never, it shows that Justin’s family is Christian, and he and his whole crew pray together before every concert. At one of the awards shows a few months ago, in Justin’s acceptance speech, he gave thanks “not only to God but to Jesus,” who he said has blessed him and is the one who put him in that position. There was debate about that line; some Christians were mad that he made it sound like Jesus and God are not the same, like he was denying the Trinity. But I think I know the point that Justin was making. All the stars thank God when they accept an award. It’s the thing to do. They throw God’s name out there right alongside the names of their producer or assistant. Justin was making a point that he doesn’t view God as just some random guy up in the clouds. He really does believe in and worship Jesus the son of God, and he gives Him the glory for his success. That is unheard of in Hollywood, let alone from teenagers. I love that JB isn’t ashamed of JC. (Ha.)

4) He has great hair. (Now’s a good time to mention that these are not listed in order of importance.) Take it from someone who’s had bangs for years: it takes a lot of work to make them look good. But Justin not only has perfected it, he’s also made a trend out of it. For the past year or so, tween and teen boys everywhere have been sporting the thick, swoopy-hair-across-the-forehead look that the Biebs made famous.

So, Daughter, I think you should admit to the fact that you really do love Justin Bieber, and when you do, I won’t tease you one bit. I’ll be right alongside you, singing and dancing to “Baby.” Now that I think about it, maybe that scene is precisely what you’re trying to avoid. Hmmm….