Opinion / Kim Lee

Stars are not ordinary people

By Kim Lee ( Updated: 2014-04-28 10:44

Last month a Chinese TV actor’s infidelity made news headlines and Weibo repost history. Attention to the story receded after various parties involved positioned themselves as ordinary family members, admittedly flawed, but mostly caring about the well-being of their children. This week a North-American teen pop sensation posted a photo of his visit to Japan’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine. He quickly followed up with a poorly written apology claiming ignorance of the shrine’s historical significance. Both of these celebrity stories made the leap from social media to traditional media. Both featured popular stars offending us with their personal behavior rather than entertaining us with their talent. Both stars sought to appease the disgruntled public by attempting to present themselves as “ordinary, everyday people who slipped up”.

Stars are not ordinary people
Kim Lee 

I certainly don’t place myself in the category of celebrity worshipper, but at the same time, I can’t say I’m a member of the group who proudly and pretentiously claims to have no interest whatsoever in celebrities. After all, the ability to attract and hold the public’s attention is what makes a person a celebrity in the first place. Who among us doesn’t have a favorite song, movie, TV show or book? Can anyone honestly claim to have zero interest in the providers of these various forms of entertainment? There are obviously more important and pressing issues in the world, but the existence of “hard news” is never going to extinguish the allure of entertainment gossip. Like everyone else, I am busy with work and family responsibilities, but I also admit to indulging in the guilty pleasure of escapism via bits of celebrity news. I’m often working and writing on serious women’s issues so I like to give my brain a short break by spending a minute or two mindlessly clicking through entertainment headlines. Scrolling through photos of stars dressed in beautiful clothes that I will never wear, attending premiers for movies that I will never see, is an easy short-term escape from reality. But this tactic fails when celebrity stories crossover from glamorous fantasy to ugly reality. My interest usually fades when celebrity stories turn scandalous because I have enough problems to deal with in my own life, I don’t need to take on the struggles of the stars.

But there is one aspect of celebrity transgression that I always find fascinating; the frequent phenomenon of both fans and media asserting that “He/she is just human, everyone makes mistakes, we have no right to criticize or comment”, or the equally popular, “Just because this person is a celebrity, a small problem becomes magnified”. This statement is totally detached from the reality that magnification is the very essence of celebrity. Have you ever seen a two meter likeness of your family members or coworkers enjoying a bottle of spring water on the side of a bus? Have you ever been offered money to wear a certain brand of sport shoes or to use a certain brand of shampoo? No, you haven’t, because you are not a celebrity. Your small personal choice of spring water or shampoo cannot be magnified to influence millions of consumers. Celebrities are extremely well paid for product endorsements and there don’t seem to be many complaints about these “magnifications”. Stars also have the benefit of staff and PR teams to help them manage their troubles, yet when they are in crisis they often blame the media or personally put forth “Please respect my privacy at this time” or “I’m just an ordinary person” statements.

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