Tuesday, March 9, 2010

people too

Very recently, I purposely decided to challenge the status quo (something I enjoy; something that now comes naturally, often without even trying outright). A few hours later, I am still working through the reaction I got.

The topic at hand for the crowd's discussion: Who are the oppressed? Who do we stereotype and belittle in our society?
The answers put forward so far: young single moms, foster kids, the homeless, mentally & physically disabled people.

(These answers are painfully true and deserve far more attention than I am currently going to give them)

As the wonderful people are pondering these and coming up with more related ideas, a spirited member of the peanut gallery (yours truly) pipes out rather loudly with an answer not yet mentioned.

"celebrities" said the girl, knowing it would cause a stir.

(insert *stir* of crowd here; giggles, laughs, and disagreement)

Now, to be fair, I know exactly what I'm doing when I do this kind of thing. I know that I am about to say something completely unholy and directly opposed to the norm. And I know what you're thinking: celebrities are anything but oppressed. But this is where I have to disagree. I may be stirring the pot, and I may be doing it on purpose, but far be it from me to say something that loudly if I don't believe that I am right.

To oppress someone, in essence, is to deny them their humanity; to erase their dignity; to ignore their worthiness of grace. Instances of oppression are much more obvious in those well versed categories (see "answers" above), and oppression in those areas is absolutely devastating, unfair, and unjust - I am by no means trying to belittle the horrors seen the world over each day. It is sad yet true, that we categorize people's worth based on what we think of them; we somehow see fit to deem the dirty as less than human. But what we often forget is that we're doing the exact same thing in a different light when it comes to those on the fault-ridden pedestals they make in Hollywood. We deny their need for human decency because we see their actions as "asking for it" or "bringing it on themselves" - change the context, and you have the typical reaction to a homeless person.

Celebrities are wealthy and beautiful and talented. They live in big houses and they drive nice cars and they are well fed and well kept (for the most part). Peel all of that away, though, and they are people too. They are people who have lost their worth in our culture (as individuals worthy of grace, love, respect) because of an image. Your defense here might be that they choose the image, and again I digress to a different opinion. They may choose to act or sing or even to construct a public persona. I highly doubt, however, that they choose to have their marital troubles mocked at large, their mental illnesses made spectacle, their weakest moments held up on parade for the entertainment of millions. We put pictures of their cellulite on magazine covers and we make sure everyone knows when they make a parenting mistake. Why would we focus on our own faults, or the fact that 83% of us live our lives the exact same way that "they" do? (in some form or another)

We do this to them because we love it and because it's easier to point out a speck than own up to a plank. Entire professions are made from stalking, hunting, and tearing strips off of people's dignity. We love to set them up so we can watch them fall. In my eyes, this is merely another form of oppression. In my opinion, we are fooling ourselves if we think we're getting off scott free for this one.


Anonymous said...

Ashley, you disturber. Trying to get me riled up, hey? Well mission accomplished!

I get what you're saying, but I think the definition has to be more clearly defined. I tried to find a definition, and I think the best one for what you're talking about is the following: the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, anxiety, etc. (dictionary.com def. 4).

With this definition, I am in complete agreement with you. Every job has some positives and negatives that can really wear on you. The denial of humanity/dignity/grace part, I'm not so sure that's the case with celebrities.

Being a celebrity is a profession that comes with money/fame/luxury as well as being followed under the microscope by fans/media. etc. Its the nature of the beast.

When I go to a restaurant and the waiter serves my table, I'm not really concerned with the waiter's life story, trials, triumphs or well-being. I just want to look at a menu, order food, receive my food and leave. Waiters know that, and choose to remain waiters knowing full well that some patrons will berate them if the food is too cold, the lighting is too dim, the menu took too long to get there etc.

The celebrity has an impossible task of trying to present themselves to the public when they want the public's attention (album release, movie premieres), and retreating when they're done with the public. That just doesn't happen. When someone appeals to your emotions, tells you a good story, or sings like an angel, we NEVER leave it at that. We want to know more about a person who blows us away with their craft, makes us laugh, etc. That desire by the public has fuelled every celebrity magazine out there. Why do you care what so-and-so does when they're not on stage? Why so shocked when you find out your favourite actor likes to eat Corn Flakes for breakfast?

And maybe that's the problem. We expect our entertainers to be more than entertainers. On the whole, people are looking for someone to look up to. We all have that desire. In this day, entertainers, wether they like it or not, are looked up to. We expect them to be like some of the characters they play (or persona they sing), and that isn't fair. Just because someone is a good singer/actor, doesn't mean we should expect them to be a model citizen, human being etc.

But, to use the lady in the picture as an example, some choose to be more. I still remember after Britney's first album came out the throngs of girls looking to her as a point of reference as to what a girl should be. And Britney (and her team) accepting that, and running full-tilt with it. When things changed, the publicity continued, which was a good thing. It kept Britney in our heads. And regardless of what we thought of Britney, we were thinking about Britney. Which is exactly what is needed when presenting something new (e.g. an album).


Anonymous said...

I don't want to seem cold, but I don't know any celebrities. I don't know what their insecurities are (other than what media tells me). And honestly, that's information that doesn't pertain to me, save Amy Winehouse (her songs are so good! I hope she cleans up soon). I can only assume that they have real friends/family, who take care of them on a personal level. The relationship I have with celebrities is a simple one. I pay you to entertain, you entertain. The balance of power lies with the public.

And most times, my 'oppression' of celebrities is to their gain. Remember December, when Charlie Sheen had some issues with his wife? Viewership of his show '2 And A Half Men' went up the next airing. The entertainment industry doesn't speak the language of morality. It speaks the language of money. Whatever will result in the most dollars coming in is the end. The means? Wide open.

People's interest in celebs lives won't change. As a Christian, I recognize their humanity from the beginning. But the society we live in has them as a product/brand to profit from. If celebs don't like it. they have the option of leaving and finding something more fulfilling. But, as I stated a long time ago in the post, being in the public eye (the good, and the bad) is the nature of the beast.

Colin and Evelyn Kroeger said...

Well put Ashley, well put.

Mama said...

I agree Ashley. And there are celebrities who have private lives outside of their profession. They make sure of it. A lot of the ones that are splashed all over magazines don't seem to make an effort to stay away from the wrong areas or the wrong people. There's plenty of actors, singers, etc., who are rarely if ever seen in those stupid waste-of-money rags. I am completely uninterested in what a celeb's brekky is or what brand of toilet paper they use. But people do assume they have no issues simply because they're rich. Praying for them is what's important. God loves them and made them in His image, the same as the street person you see pulling his house around in a shopping cart. God looks at our hearts, not our status and I think we often forget celebrities when we're praying for the rest of the world.