I recently realised that I do actually appreciate celebrity culture. Initially, it seemed as though this was a serious revelation for me, but after a little thought I established that is not the concept of admiring strangers to the point that you want to know what their favourite clothes/music/book/politician/animal is etc. that irks me, but the average quality of celebrity that exists today.
Celebrities are generally celebrities for a reason, in the past they may have been composers, singers, playwrights, or poets; now they are primarily actors, popular musicians, or comedians. There is nothing wrong with this change of type, but in the 21st century there has been an unnerving, and huge, boom in the manufacturing of celebrities through reality TV. Whilst some people on the X-Factor do occasionally have a shred of talent, what do people from Geordie Shore, The Only Way is Essex, or The Real Housewives of wherever actually contribute to the world?
It’s not unfair to say that the people from these shows are not special. Some of these people are quite clearly horrible, but the majority of them are just fairly normal people whose lives are broadcast on TV to over a million people. These people are manufactured celebrities, simply created by producers to make a fast buck, and because people watch the shows, and gossip magazines leap on it, suddenly the lives of normal, sometimes unpleasant, people become a multi-million-pound/dollar industry.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to make the point here that, ‘yes; these celebrities aren’t as talented as other celebrities, but their shows are entertaining and I should be allowed to watch them.’ This is true, we are all free to watch what we choose. However, this entertainment is simply the screening of slightly above average daily gossip, barely more interesting than your own, ramped up for the camera, and edited with music and club scenes. The world is more intelligent than that. If you want to want to watch the sordid lives of rich people then watch The Wolf of Wall Street, trust me, it’s way better (and more sordid) than Made In Chelsea. I should clarify that the root of the problem is not the ‘manufactured’ celebrity that we see on TV and in gossip magazines; they are the result of the dumbing-down of entertainment, and the condescension of entertainment networks to their audiences.
We have a vast population of valuable celebrities who have created great television, film, music, and more, and Alain de Botton has shown just how valuable they can be, but still we aren’t satisfied, we need more strangers to talk about, whose private lives are invaded for the sake of mild entertainment. This is why the market for the manufactured celebrity exists.