Celebrities receive such a remarkable level of attention today, and a lot of emphasis and value is placed on their actions. These are mostly the rich and famous and in this mad adoration, the media has given them a colossal amount of coverage, sharing all aspects of their lives to their admirers who equally crave such news. This information includes what they wear, where they were seen and whom they were with, and what they have been doing lately, among other news. The media accords so much time as the society is so receptive and has a desire to have an endless supply of information on their idols. It is this obsession with public figures that have been referred to as the ‘celebrity worship syndrome’ (CNS), or the Cult of Celebrity.
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CNS is an obsessive disorder that is affecting all sides of society, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, etc. Celebrities like Madonna, Princess Diana (before her death), and David Beckham, among others, are adored by millions around the world, and whatever they say or do is held in high regard by their admirers.
A Recent Phenomenon?
To think that the cult of celebrity disorder is a phenomenon that began recently is a fallacy; some researchers suggest that this trend started with Lilly Langtry (1853-1929) who had her pictures drawn by well-known artists and displayed on postcards during the Victorian times. These postcards were distributed all over London and led to her prominence, eventually becoming a mistress to Queen Victoria’s son, Albert Edward. However, some people argue that celebrity worship began years before Langtry. John Schumaker, writing in the New Internationalist, points out that it first emerged in the 1880s when the idea of a ‘cultural hero’ began to undergo a transition from a stern, duty-driven individual who bowed to the set standards and principles (scholars, famous politicians, great leaders) to a person famous for being well known (Brace, 2008, para. 7).
The erosion of organized religion has also made a contribution- as the religiousness of the society wanes, the likelihood of celebrity worship rises (Brace, 2008, para. 8).
Unfortunately, these obsessions with public figures always lead to misinformation, and it is the misinformation that is normally recognized and given prominence. For example, Charles Darwin is widely regarded as the first person to be given the ‘celebrity cult’ admiration, this distorted his true position as a naturalist and scientist. This continues to be the case today.
Celebrity Cult and Morality
Celebrities have a great influence on society, the public scrutinizes their actions more closely and even the smallest of information attributed to them can become headline-making news, thanks to the media. The recent happenings in the sports world, notably relating to Tiger Woods, John Terry, and Wayne Rooney, have revealed how much the public expects their idols to live. Whilst cases of immorality are common in our society, even among the admirers of these celebrities, the actions of the celebrities are greatly highlighted by the media, making them look like isolated cases.
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Because of engaging in extramarital affairs, several of Tiger Woods’ associates chose to pull out of sponsorship deals worth millions of dollars, referring to his moral indiscretions as ample explanation for their decision (Weber, 2010, para. 2). These included Gillette, A, T & T, Gatorade, and Accenture. Before revelations about his life came to the fore, 91 percent of opinions relating to him were positive, however, this dropped to 41 percent after the incident became public (Fredrix, 2009, para. 7). Accenture’s chief marketing officer talked of him as someone who exemplifies the ‘relentless pursuit of perfection’, unfortunately, this is the view that the public has of their celebs, and expects nothing short of it.
Besides losing his sponsors, Woods had to undergo a divorce. The magnitude of this case as projected by the media eliminated any reconciliatory efforts that he may have attempted. The same predicaments befell another English celebrity sportsman, Ashley Cole, a football player who was married to another celebrity, Cheryl Ann Cole, an actress, model, and television star, the couple went separate ways too.
Not Limited to Sports Personality
It would seem that celebrity worship is only limited to sportsmen, this is not the case. The list of adored celebrities includes musicians (Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson), movie stars (Marylin Monroe, Angelina Jolie), political leaders (Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton), and, as said earlier, great scholars (Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton), among others personalities.
Two ethical questions arise from celebrity worship. The first one is whether we should continue to judge the professional lives of celebs from actions that they undertake in their private lives. Secondly, should an individual’s professional contract be broken due to unethical conduct, as happened in Woods’ case? Shouldn’t a line be drawn between Woods the golfer and Woods the endorser? On a personal judgment, the first question’s answer is no while the second one depends on the conditions of the conditions under which the contract was signed.
One point that all people come to agree on is that ethics and morality are vital to one’s professional life whether he is a public figure or not.
Brace, R. A. (2008). The Cult of Celebrity. Web.
Fredrix, E. (2009). Tiger Woods Sponsors Distance Themselves From Golfer. Web.
Weber, E. (2010). Tiger Woods, Virtue Ethics, and Corporate Sponsorship. Web.