Thursday, January 31, 2008

Celebrity obsession must be curbed

When Heath Ledger died last week, people across the nation were appalled.

Think back to when you first heard about his death. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. Somehow, I was under the impression that celebrities live for an inordinately long time. They’re supposed to be invincible. It seemed such an unexpected blow that someone could die so young.

At the onset, I felt like someone I had known for a long time was gone.

In an interview with the New York Times on the day of Mr. Ledger’s death, Nichole Vaughan, a law student at New York University, said that she was greatly affected "because of the way our generation is; we just sort of feel we're a part of each other's lives."

Is this really true? Do we all truly feel pleasantly connected to the stranger on the sidewalk? Closeness is a sentiment that is very unusual to find in today's isolationist society, much less in New York City.

While I am in no way attempting to diminish the tragedy of death, it seems to me that an undue affection has been given to celebrities and that we have exalted them to inappropriate levels--almost to the status of demigods.

After my preliminary thoughts on Mr. Ledger’s death, I realized that I don't feel the same way for the girl in the eleventh grade who is killed by a drunk driver. I don't feel the same way for the flag draped caskets that come home from any one of our many conflicts.

Our young adult life has become like high school on a larger scale. We have filled the role of the jock with the professional athlete. We’ve filled the role of the beautiful, popular people with movie luminaries and rock star heroes. Politicians, though divisive, even have a place of high regard in our convoluted social scene of glitz and glamour.

But what about those who are down and out? What about the poor, the hungry, the homeless? What about the whores, the pimps, the drug addicts? What about the middle class?

Am I saying that we need to obsess over these people as much as we gorge ourselves on fame? Hardly. Rather, we need to adopt a caring mindset that produces acts of service.
We need to stop giving celebrities so much unwarranted divinity, and we need to start concerning ourselves with the rest of the human race as much as we worship those in the limelight.

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