Impact of Celebrity on Entertainemnt as a Form of Communication

Monday, September 11, 2006

Tabloid News: Feeding America's Celebrity Addiction

As I waited in the Las Vegas International Airport this weekend I amused myself by leafing through the magazines in the snack shop. Lucky, Cosmopolitan, Vogue and Marie Claire seemed to top my list. Suddenly, US Weekly caught my eye, A New Love for Jessica! I was sold. As I feverishly flipped through the pages to find the latest gossip on Jessica and her new romance I stopped and looked up only to see Jessica Dumped, in large bolded letters across the cover of People. I dropped the US Weekly that only moments before had captivated my attention, and immediately began to leaf through People. When out of the blue I had an epiphany; “What was I doing?” “Was I really allowing tabloid magazines to enthrall my senses?” I quickly placed the magazine back on the rack and left the shop. As I sat on my plane later that day I looked around and noticed how many people, just like me were enthralled with tabloid news. What is it about tabloids that seem to interest the American public so much? And more importantly is it healthy to be so celebrity obsessed?

With the recent celebrity obsession tabloid magazines have become a staple on American coffee tables. Tabloids allow access to the most intimate details of celebrity’s lives. The growing star obsession is somewhat of a phenomenon. In an article in the online magazine
Cosmos, it is quoted that New Scientist magazine has dubbed this celeb obsession an epidemic sweeping America. They have labeled this so called epidemic "celebrity worship syndrome" or C.W.S. Tabloid news feeds the addiction many Americans have to celebrity gossip. The juicier the gossip the more addicted readers become to the magazines.

Some feel that being interested in celebrity gossip is just a frivolous past time, but in fact this somewhat humorous obsession, actually can have an impact on ones psychological health.
James Houran, a clinical psychologist has said that at low levels of consumption tabloid news can actually be beneficial to ones psyche. In Houran's book Celebrity Worshippers: Inside the Minds of Stargazers, Houran discusses how interest in celebrities (in moderation) is enjoyable because it gives readers something to believe in. People become attatched to the celbrities they read about and create a genuine concern for them. Tabloid news gives people common topics to discuss, it provides entertainment and is a form of escape from people’s every day lives and problems. When tabloid readers learn in a magazine that even Jennifer Aniston has marital problems they instantly feel a little more normal.

The detrimental effects of celeb gossip occur when individuals become too interested in celebrities lives. So the question becomes: when does consumption become too much? Houran created a celebrity interest scale titled "The Celebrity Attitude Scale," which is specifically designed to answer this question. In an
ABC News article Houran’s scale of healthy and unhealthy celebrity worship is explained. There are three stages. “The first is "entertainment social" where someone has a casual interest in celebrities. The next level is "intense personal" where people can no longer separate fantasy from reality. The final, most intense stage of celebrity worship is "borderline-pathological" which can be marked by criminal or dangerous behavior.” Although there are some people who are a part of the second and third levels of Houran’s scale, the majority of celebrity infatuated American’s can be categorized as “entertainment social.”

In the end being obsessed with celebrities is not actually a terrible thing. Tabloid news, in moderation, can be an enjoyable and healthy pastime. Instead it is easy to think of the star obsession somewhat like a religion; yes there is the occasional fanatic, but most partake in the pastime for personal fulfillment. Whether it be the latest issue of Life & Style or this months Torah portion, find solace in the fact that you, like so many others have something to look forward to and believe in. So next time I'm in the airport or the grocery store, I will proudly pick up my copy of People and indulge with out any feelings of guilt.

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