Heroes and celebrities of popular culture
HEROES AND CELEBRITIES
Heroes and Celebrities
Definition, similarities, and differences
Literature, both psychological and medical, provides various definitions for a hero and a celebrity. A hero is defined as a person ‘who already has and will produce objects, ideas and followers (which are of national and international importance), and whose achievements persist through time.’ CITATION Nor05 l 16393 (North, Bland, & Ellis, 2005) This criterion, of doing things that surpass time itself, and prove themselves to be of importance no matter what the era, seems to be the main factor that distinguishes a hero and a celebrity. A celebrity, thus, is defined as a person whose actions are of national and international importance, but whose achievements are forgotten after some time.
Over time, other researchers have added to this definition, or even defined certain parameters of it. Becker and Eagle said heroism consisted of pro-social behaviours in general. Thus, heroism would be defined as an act aimed at helping other people despite the fact that it puts the helper’s life in danger CITATION Bec04 n t l 16393 (2004).
There are, however, parameters that govern these definitions. Becker and Eagle’s study came to be due to their observation that people associated heroism more with masculinity than with femininity. They evaluated some high-risk tasks against low-risk ones (either having the same or equivalent levels of danger) and found that with the exception of Carnegie Medallists (who were more males than females), the number ratio of men to women in all other categories was equal or lower CITATION Bec04 n t l 16393 (2004).
In addition to gender, there are other factors that determine whether a person is a celebrity or a hero. In their study titled Distinguishing Heroes from Celebrities, North et al. examined the emotional effect of a pop song on people and found that it depended on whether the singer or composer was alive, and how his or her public persona and perception were when they were. Therefore, a singer with a ‘good’ image was deemed a hero, whereas one with a ‘bad’ image was a celebrity CITATION Nor05 l 16393 (North, Bland, & Ellis, 2005).
A critique on heroes and celebrities
The perception of an image is deeper than it seems, especially when it comes to heroes and celebrities. Heroes are almost always taken in a positive light, whereas celebrities can be so for the wrong reasons. This Kardashians, for example, will not be considered heroes, since their contribution to society is limited to a high-end fashion store and more family drama than one is comfortable with. Nelson Mandela, however, will always be remembered fondly by all as the man who spent twenty-seven years in jail to free his country. He will be a symbol of peace and patriotism, and his words will be considered golden by all.
Heroes are thus, associated with the good of the society, and positive, exemplary behaviour. Celebrities, however, are famous for entertainment, and often their scandals. This is why some serial killers become an overnight sensation, and terrorists have discussion forums about them on the internet. The discussions may not always be positive, as is in the case of heroes, but they will be considered celebrities nonetheless because of their individual and immediate impact on the world.
Another difference between the two sects is how they affect people on the whole. A person may be perceived differently by every community: a person may be a hero and martyr for one sect, and a villain and tyrannical for another. An example would be how some people with similar ideologies worship terrorists and agree with their methods, whereas others denounce their ways and criticize them openly for their approach. Thus, a person may be considered a hero or a celebrity depending on the thought process of a community.
The potential effects of a personality on people are to be considered especially in the case of children, as was pointed out by Kristina Gregory. Celebrities are often defined as ‘potential role models’ for today’s society. However, in the present context, when they are famous more for drugs, sex, and scandal than their charities and goodwill activities, that is a worrying prospect. Thus, Lindsay Lohan will be considered an infamous role model, but Joan of Arc would be considered an appropriate one: the former is famous for her numerous jail terms, and the latter is hailed as a saint CITATION Gre08 l 16393 (Gregory, 2008).
Support from the people is another factor that influences heroes and celebrities. Heroes take the stage and become immortal: they are people who revolutionized their fields, who made incomparable contributions to society, and who always induce a positive public reaction, so much so that people want to emulate them. Steve Jobs created Apple; Mahatma Gandhi is a symbol of peace; Martin Luther King revolutionized the Civil Rights Movement; Rosa Parks is a symbol of hope. Moreover, the mentioned people will be revered throughout time no matter what because they changed society for the better.
Celebrities, however, need public support to be famous. Where heroism is a one-way street, being a celebrity is two-way communication. A person cannot be a celebrity unless people pay attention to him or her. Thus, they need to stay in the limelight for it is their bread and butter. Heroes inspire; celebrities entertain. Neal Gabler describes a celebrity perfectly: as a person who takes the national stage, does their act and leaves, but will not be invited back until they have something new to offer CITATION Gab94 l 16393 (Gabler, 1994). This is why Malala Yousufzai won the Nobel Peace Prize, whereas Miley Cyrus became a topic of contention over her controversial videos.
The Celebrity Culture: Fans’ fascination with celebrities
The primary reason behind the existence of celebrity culture is the media’s fascination with them. Where the proliferation regarding celebrities was considerable back in the day, it is now at an all-time high, especially due to the existence and reach of new media tools like the internet, mobile phones and laptops. Since celebrities represent sex, scandal and entertainment, they are fodder for a media house, which today is a slave to numbers than integrity. The more hype one creates, the more people watch their channel, and thus higher the ratings.
However, the focus on celebrities, at the end of the day, is because people too are obsessed with them as an audience. The media only feeds the people’s hunger for gossip and tidbits: how many surgeries a celebrity had, how many partners they have, and so on CITATION Nei95 l 16393 (Neimark, 1995). The media makes celebrities out of people because people want to pay money to see them; people want to know about them; people want to do what they do, eat where they eat, and where what they wear. Celebrities, like the media, are thus omnipresent, because people want them to be.
Conclusion: why we need heroes
Simply put, we need heroes because they not only represent the best in us but also inspire us to bring out the same. Heroes not only light a noble fire in the heart, but also serve to expand our horizons, and look past the mendacity of the mundane engagements that we have every day.
Whether they work nationally or locally, dangerously or safely, by being famous or in obscurity, in war or peace, heroes serve to make us better people from the inside by compelling us to emulate them. They do not ask to be famous, but their deeds distinguish them from us, and from someone who shares the same platform as them, but for their scandals. This is why the soldiers who gunned down a national terrorist were heroes, but the socialite who tweeted about missing her dogs on that very night is a celebrity.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Becker, S. W., & Eagly, A. H. (2004, April). The heroism of women and men. American Journal of Medicine, 59(3), 163-78. Retrieved Dec 3, 2015
Gabler, N. (1994, Oct 16). The Brief Half-Life of Celebrity. New York Times, p. Editorial.
Gregory, K. (2008). Celebrities: Who They Are, How They Gain Popularity, and Why Society Is So Fascinated with Them and Their Court Cases. Michigan: [email protected]
Neimark, J. (1995, May 1). The Culture of Celebrity. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199505/the-culture-celebrity
North, A. C., Bland, V., & Ellis, N. (2005, Feb). Distinguishing heroes from celebrities. Journal of Psychology, 96(1), 39-52. Retrieved December 3, 2015