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What makes someone a celebrity?

Where does celebrity start?

On July 4th, 2019, the UK's Advertising Standards (ASA) ruled that 30,000 followers on social media officially makes you a 'celebrity.'

This ruling came after Instagram user ThisMamaLife posted an advertisement for sleeping tablets to their 32,000 followers.

The ASA decided ThisMamaLife's 32,000-strong following made them a celebrity, and thus banned the user from endorsing pharmaceutical drugs throughout the UK.

But what actually makes a celebrity a celebrity? Is it 30,000 followers on social media? Is it worldwide recognisability? Is it significant influence over the general public?

The origins of celebrity culture can be traced back to the ancient Graeco-Roman times. In those days, the mythologies of Zeus, Poseidon, and Apollo provided citizens with an outlet for their imagination.

Today, the principle is the same. Celebrities offer us a distraction from our own mundane lives and an opportunity to escape everyday life and enter the fictitious 'Hollywood bubble'.

Nowadays, however, instead of Greek Gods, we have the Kardashians.

The rise of social media

In recent years, the public's perception of celebrities has become more and more fickle. Idols are marketed, bought, sold and quickly cast aside not unlike the aforementioned Greek heroes.

The rise of social media has made celebrity culture vastly more expeditious. Every week Instagram churns out another 'celebrity,' only for them to be replaced the following week.

Celebrities used to represent ethics, morality or historic achievement. Take Jesse Owens, Theodore Roosevelt or Oscar Wilde as examples.

Today, they are produced by and for the information age. We live at a time where vast amounts of information are readily available instantaneously. Information is thrown at us constantly, be it on the internet, on television or advertising placards.

Celebrities help personalise that information. They put a recognisable face on it, adding a human dimension to vast swathes of mundane details.

More celebrities every day

These days we are constantly inundated with gossip about our favourite celebrity's. What scandals they've been involved in, who they're dating, what they ate for breakfast.

This increased coverage is matched by the increased number of supposed 'celebrities.' In the 1900s, the world celebrity was generally reserved for actors.

Now anyone with an Instagram account can hope to climb to celebrity stardom. The increased number of celebrities matched with the increased coverage has made celebrity culture less attractive.

Daniel Boorstin explained the celebrity culture in the following words: 'The hero was distinguished by his achievement, the celebrity by his image.' This increased need for an 'image' has transmogrified celebrities from people to commodities.

Celebrities are influential

In essence, we have more and more information about people who are less and less real. Increasingly, breaking news stories, national cultures and political turmoil are reduced to the actions of individuals.

So America's entire political program is often reduced to a single sentence tweeted by Donald Trump. So why is the public so fixated on the lives of celebrities?

The celebrity culture is influential because it evokes two simultaneous yet antithetical thoughts. Firstly, we view celebrities as almost superior beings to ourselves. Their fame, wealth and recognition make us envious.

Secondly, however, when we see celebrities involved in scandals, embroiled in a bitter divorce or battling addiction; we see these celebrities as just like us.

The two aspects go hand in hand to give us the feeling of superiority we associate with celebrity culture.



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