ESSAY // Celebrities: Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em

Originally written for a language arts class and then published for The St. Louis Suburban Journals

November 27, 2009. 2:25 A.M. A crash interrupts the stillness of a dark night. Only one light remains; the other, smashed. The shiny, sleek front is falling off, and the cracks in the once transparent glass reveal a mess within. The wreck is not just a crash caused by an ill-timed swerve, but also by a fall from grace.

To say that “everyone” was shocked to learn of the scandalous personal life of Tiger Woods may be only a slight exaggeration. It was a carefully hidden secret behind his record-breaking golf career and seemingly happy marriage, and there were few indicators to the general public that behind this front he was having several affairs. The original reports of his mysterious, early-morning crash did not suspect any such behavior (Segal, “On The Scene: Tiger Woods’ Car Crash (November 27, 2009)”). When the truth came out, though, even he admitted that he was “living a lie” (Associated Press).

Before the crash, many considered him a talented, admirable family man. After the fact, far from it. The tabloids could not get enough of the new, embarrassing details. He, of course, is not the first celebrity to be pushed off of the pedestal by the very people who placed him there. Americans love to heap attention and praise on anyone with a semi-recognizable face. However, what Americans may enjoy even more than showering love on these people is to shower hate upon them when they cannot live up to their originally idealized images — and they rarely do. After all of the magazine covers, headlining roles, and interviews we give them, we watch their lives fall apart. Their marriages crumble, like Jon and Kate Gosselin’s. They die from drug overdoses, like Heath Ledger or Brittany Murphy, and they purposely try to take their lives, like Owen Wilson. Others, like Tiger or Sandra Bullock’s husband, Jesse James, cheat on their spouses. During these episodes, we probably give them more attention. The business of celebrity scandals is as old as the business of celebrities themselves, and those are just some of the most recent examples. However, as each new scandal surfaces, it becomes more and more questionable as to why these people — yes, people with flaws and weaknesses—are continually idolized by the media and the people who support the frenzy when both the media and public seem to subconsciously expect them to fail. Would it be too blunt to propose that the public should not lavish all of this positive attention on celebrities, only to repeatedly snatch it away and replace it for scorn when disappointed and let down?

The public does not show partiality based on age in this game, either.

Disney is famous — daresay, notorious — for perfecting the child star “formula” that rakes in the cash and clamors for the media spotlight (Asay). These child stars are praised as they rise to fame and are put on “Ones to Watch” lists because of their talent — they are the next generation of stars.

However, they are also the next generation of scandals.

Perhaps the most famous of these, Miley Cyrus, has taken flack for edgy, revealing photos and accusations of a performance similar to pole dancing. The Parents Television Council also “condemned the sexualized natured of Miley Cyrus’ latest music video, “Who Owns My Heart” (Stransky). She started the rollercoaster ride of celebrity-dom at age 13 when her TV show “Hannah Montana” debuted.

Right after “Hannah” shows on Disney Channel, Demi Lovato takes the screen on her own show, “Sonny With a Chance.” She has danced around speculation of a cutting problem and just quit her tour with the Jonas Brothers “for ’emotional and physical issues'” (“Is Demi Cutting Again?”, Snierson). She started filming for Disney at age 14.

Similarly, other child stars like Drew Barrymore and Lindsay Lohan (another Disney starlet) started with promising careers but have certainly been aboard what some would call “the crazy train,” complete with episodes like hard partying, drugs, alcohol, arrest, rehab, and many other morally questionable choices. What chance for perfect people in Hollywood is left if not even the “innocent” child stars can’t keep it together?

It doesn’t. It is easy to point the finger at their immoral behavior and their personal responsibility certainly holds them at fault; even Tiger admitted, “It was all me. I’m the one who did it. I’m the one who acted the way I acted” (Associated Press).

However, it is also the public’s fault for the expectations put on these people. These stars willingly put themselves in the limelight, but they never forced Perez Hilton to gossip about them or the cast of “The View” to discuss their behavior. We praise their rises to success and condemn their falls from glory. Referring to Lovato, Paul Asay of Plugged In magazine asks, “Is it wise to put that kind of financially driven burden—the responsibility of being an infallible role model—on the back of a 15- or 16-year-old in the first place? Is it fair, for instance, to place young Lovato on a pedestal and then, should she fall, lambaste her for failing?” (Asay) It is also worth asking, is it “fair” to place that pressure on any human being, who is not perfect and bound to make mistakes? Whether or not it is, we will never get the results we hope for.

We don’t just put superstars in headlines, we also put them in editorials, fashion tips, and advice columns. They are not just stories; they are lifestyles we try to understand and emulate — until they mess up. It is a love-them-and-leave-them kind of relationship, or, in a word, hypocritical. While the behavior some of these stars exhibit is not acceptable, condonable, or admirable (and certainly indeed does deserve some criticism), it is not to be condemned more than a regular person who commits the same act. While they should realize that they are role models and seek to use and harness that power for encouraging better behavior, we cannot expect them to do it perfectly every time. Celebrities are people too — just with more money and more attention — and, like for anyone else, we cannot choose their actions for them, but we can choose our responses to them. Their mistakes are often cries for help and guidance (whether they intend for that or not), not for abandonment, and it is more important to remember that we have made or are capable of making similar ones.

I know that I struggle with this — I would rather point out the speck in their eyes than the plank in my own. I must work on correcting this behavior myself.

When the cameras are flashing and the seemingly perfectly white teeth are shining in their light, it is hard to look away. The stars forcing the smiles cannot hide their flaws forever, but neither can the photographers and the other fans behind the velvet ropes. To ask for perfection from fellow human beings is simply unrealistic and a double standard — we often think it’s ridiculous when people ask it of us. Maybe if the public turned away from these flashing lights, they wouldn’t eventually see them go out, like one did at 2:25 A.M. in November of 2009. They would instead discover that no one can live up to the glossy, blemish-free images seen on the covers of the magazines upon which we place them, that before the editing and airbrushing, look quite a bit like us.

Works Cited

Asay, Paul. “Demi-Model.” Plugged In Online. Focus on the Family, 13 Oct. 2008. Web. 07, Apr. 2010. .

Associated Press. “Woods: ‘A Little Nervous’ about Return at Masters.” FOXNews.com. FOX News Network, LLC, 21 Mar. 2010. Web. 7 Apr. 2010. .

“Is Demi Cutting Again?” Star Magazine. American Media, Inc., 17 July 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. .

“On The Scene: Tiger Woods’ Car Crash (November 27, 2009).” Access Hollywood. NBC Universal, Inc., 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. .

Segal, Kim. “Tiger Woods Injured in Minor Car Accident.” CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Nov. 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. .

Snierson, Dan. “Demi Lovato Drops out of Jonas Brothers’ Tour, Checks into Treatment Center.” Entertainment Weekly. CNN, 1 Nov. 2010. Web. 03 Nov. 2010. .

Stransky, Tanner. “Miley Cyrus’ New Music Video Blasted by Parents Television Council.” Entertainment Weekly. CNN, 9 Oct. 2010. Web. 03 Nov. 2010.