Eliminating society’s celebrity obsession

By Kim Nursall

In light of Tiger Woods’ recent infidelities, companies such as Gillette and Accenture have reneged on sponsorship contracts with the golf superstar. Because these companies claim that an affiliation with Tiger Woods will adversely affect product sales, they have severed ties to the supposedly discredited sports icon.

Companies acting thus send the message that people who have become famous due to attributes such as athletic prowess, musical talent or acting ability are not only to be judged based on their special skills, but according to their moral compasses as well. This added judgement is, in a word, ridiculous. We may strive to emulate these individuals because of what made them famous — their unique or expert abilities — but fame does not imply they have reached a higher plateau of ethical conduct. I certainly do not turn on my TV and wonder how I can better exemplify the ethics of Tiger Woods; I am much more interested in his domination of the sport of golf. In addition, when celebrities like Woods commit supposed moral transgressions I do not throw stones . . . for fear of shattering my own glass house. Superstars may be superior to the average person in terms of a particular ability — note that my use of superstar here encompasses individuals who actually have talent, so “luminaries” such as Paris Hilton are emphatically excluded — but it is ludicrous to assume they are better than an average person ethically.

This kind of typecasting — for example, judging Tiger Woods in areas utterly unrelated to his golfing ability — has become a sickness in our society. We are obsessed with the everyday lives of celebrities — “Brad Pitt buys groceries? He’s just like us!” As a result, we have started to view our erstwhile idols as larger-than-life role-models, or somehow better informed about subjects such as the environment or foreign affairs. Their opinions about politics become more important and more persuasive in determining our own views than individuals who have actually studied and immersed themselves in the subject for years. The truly informed individuals, however, do not get their ideas illuminated on such grotesque shows as Entertainment Tonight, and the news is simply not as enticing (read: stupid).

We have our priorities jumbled. We over-value the opinions and over-judge the moral actions of celebrated individuals who became renowned neither as a result of their opinions nor their moral character. I am not saying I do not appreciate celebrities who may become involved in societal issues in useful ways not directly affiliated with their sports, music, acting, etc, but I would much rather listen to the opinion of some unknown political analyst who has devoted his life to the subject than the misinformed and underdeveloped ideas of Bono, Pitt, Angelina Jolie or Matt Good.

In short, remember why celebrities are celebrities, don’t throw moral stones and learn about the world from a newspaper.

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