Why People Worship Celebrities and Film Stars?

Celebrity Worship

by Jayaram V

Summary: This is a comprehensive essay about celebrity worship syndrome, and why people become obsessed with celebrities, film stars and famous people.


Admiration for an ideal person, a role model or a celebrity goes by such names as hero worship, idol worship and celebrity worship. There is nothing wrong to admire successful people, who exemplify the best of their talents and virtues. People can learn from their success or look to them for inspiration. However, problems arise when the admiration becomes excessive, obsessive or abnormal.

Obsession or infatuation with celebrities is a major social and psychological problem in many countries, especially among the youth. It is a major problem in India also and major source of distraction for many people who could otherwise use their energy and resources for more productive purposes. Many businesses thrive upon celebrity worship, especially the entertainment industry, as it ensures them a safe market and good collections. The celebrities are no doubt benefited by it, while the fans usually end up as the losers. Celebrity worship is a one-sided relationship, but in their blind admiration the fans do not recognize it. The earlier they recognize it, the better it will be for them and their future.

Reasons for celebrity worship

There are many reasons why people admire, love, worship or become obsessed with famous film stars, singers, sports personalities and other celebrities. Their success and personal charisma are largely responsible for their personal appeal, as people admire those who beat the odds and become successful. Sometimes, it also helps them forget their own failures, problems and anxiety, and draw vicarious pleasure from the success and popularity of their favorite stars. It is like a self-defensive mechanism, which helps them distract their minds from themselves and the reality of their lives and problems.

Having a liking or admiration for celebrities and successful people is a normal human behavior. Humans as well as animals tend to form groups for their survival and protection. However, becoming obsessed with them and developing a mental dependence upon them is a psychological problem that needs to be addressed. Obsessive fans become a problem to themselves and to their families. Sometimes, they need counseling to overcome their attachment.

There can be many factors, which bring people together to experience unity and belongingness such as nationality, race, caste, ideology, etc. Sometimes, a celebrity or a leader becomes the unifying factor. Just as in any other group, fanaticism may surface in such groups, as is the case with many fan groups in India, leading to other problems, including violence, psychopathy, sociopathic behavior and aggression.

Studies suggest that there is a correlation between mental health and celebrity worship. People who suffer from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and other forms of mental disorders are more vulnerable to mild to extreme forms of celebrity obsession.  The following are a few important reasons why people are drawn to celebrities and indulge in celebrity worship

1. Admiration: This is very common, especially among the young and the adolescent. People admire some quality, talent, trait or behavior in celebrities and become drawn to them. They may like to follow them on social networks or know about them from various sources out of curiosity or for entertainment or for inspiration. In most cases, their admiration fades away, as they grow and evolve and their tastes and ideals change.

2. Entertainment: People may be drawn to the celebrities due to their entertainment value. They may prefer to watch their programs and performance and, in the process, develop an emotional bond with them. In most cases this is the initial factor in celebrity worship, and in most cases it ends without complications. Many people move on, as they grow older and their circumstances and personal tastes change. However, some become stuck and remain nostalgic about their celebrities.

3. Ego identification: This is a deeper cause and difficult to overcome. Because of it, people believe or become convinced that they have some common traits or similarities with the celebrities and feel deeply connected to them at a deeper level. As the lines blur, they may act like them, think like them, dress like them or live like them. In some cases, they may also feel responsible and obliged to support them in their social or political causes or defend them from others.

4. Social factors: Ego identification may also happen due to the reasons of commonality or shared social factors such as caste, race, nationality, religion, color, language, ideology, etc., which cement the feelings of unity and create the illusion of brotherhood or fraternity. This is a common problem in India where caste plays a predominant role in the celebrity status of many politicians, celebrity singers, musicians and film stars. People not only admire or worship the celebrities for such reasons but also do the same to their children, grandchildren, wives and other relations, as if they all belong to one large extended family.

5. Low self-esteem: The success and popularity of celebrities may help their fan base draw some relief from their own failures, shortcomings and inadequacies and feel compensated by the imaginary relationships which they develop with them. It may also help them overcome the hidden feelings of anxiety and low-esteem by vicariously taking pleasure or pride in the success and achievements of the celebrities. It is a temporary distraction, which makes them feel detached and disassociated from themselves and their reality, but it hardly helps them in the long run.

6. Obsessive love or infatuation: Intense admiration and obsession with the celebrities may often lead to feelings of love for them. Many people fall in love with celebrities, although they know that it is impossible to carry it through. In many instances, the controversial lifestyles of the celebrities give enough cause for some of the fans to treat them as love objects and feel attracted to them. Simple love may often become an obsession whereby people become delusional. Some even marry the images or photographs of their favorite celebrities and convince themselves that they are wedded to them, which in turn may affect their real relationships. 

7. Sexual attraction: People are also drawn to celebrities due to their sex appeal or physical appearance and imagine them to be their ideal sex partners. They desire to be with them or spend time with them. In a few cases, it may become an obsession and take many forms. Some may feel aroused by the images or the memory of celebrities and engage in sexual fantasies and daydreaming. Some may seek sexual partners who resemble them. A few may try to behave like them in public to attract the opposite sex. Such delusional behavior may interfere with their normal sexual activity and real-life relationships.

8. Mental abnormality: Celebrity worship syndrome is by itself considered a mental abnormality, which may lead to other mental disorders if not contained in time. It is believed that celebrity obsession may become a seriously problem in people who suffer from other mental disorders such as psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar condition, chronic depression, sociopathic tendencies, etc. Other factors which may induce obsessive feelings towards celebrities include poor mental health, social dysfunction, low life satisfaction, etc.

Conclusion

Celebrities and successful people can be a source of inspiration to all of us. We can learn from them to improve ourselves and our efforts to achieve peace and happiness. However, in the process we should never forget that we cannot be them or live their lives as if they are our own. We are the most important people in our lives, and we cannot engage in a one-sided relationship to feel good about ourselves or take pride in someone else’s achievements.

If you are prone to celebrity worship or excessive admiration for a film star or spots person, ask yourself how far it is going to help you personally and where it will lead you. In a celebrity vs. fan relationship, the fans are usually the losers. They gain nothing of value from it except a few lessons, while the celebrities cash on their success and popularity and their influence upon their fan base. Instead of wasting our time and resources on celebrity personalities, we should pay attention to the important people in our lives, love them, care for them and strengthen our relationship with them.

No one is perfect. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Our weaknesses will not go away through wishful thinking or celebrity worship. We must accept who we are, admire the best qualities in others and move on with our lives in search of our own fulfillment, peace and happiness. The most important thing in life is discernment or discretion (buddhi). If you have it, you will not easily fall for any delusion.

Share This


Suggestions for Further Reading

Disclaimer: This is not a scientific paper. The material for this essay has been drawn from various sources, and partly from author’s observations, and intended for information purposes only. Research in this subject is limited. More studies are required to understand the magnitude of celebrity worship or celebrity obsession, and the attitudes and behaviors associated with it.