I wrote about the cult of celebrity before, but it remains one of these things that sort of fascinates me. I am mostly indifferent celebrities themselves, but the worship-like attention they receive is a very interesting phenomenon.

We have this group of people out there – let’s call them A list celebrities. They are so famous that they are almost universally recognized by everyone worldwide or at least nationally. It doesn’t matter whether you care about what they do – you know who these people are.

Then there is a whole industry that concerns itself primarily with gathering information about these people, and delivering it to the general public. There are whole TV networks, radio stations, magazines and commercial web portals devoted to celebrity gossip.

The intense interest in the minutiae details about the daily lives of few hundred, rich public figures is actually able to sustain hundreds of thousands of people working in this industry – from a lowly paparazzi to a high powered TV network CEO.

Then we have millions of people who consume the products generated by that industry. The funny thing is that the people at the top of this pyramid (the celebrities) hardly ever realize they have a captive audience of immense size that watches their every move. Or rather they know, but they have no clue how to exploit it. I mean, there are millions of people intently watching you poop then your bowel movements have the power to change the world. Very few celebs actually capitalize on this.

Some do realize the potential they have, but fail miserably when they try to get a message across. Usually they get on a soapbox of some sort to talk about the issues they care about, and then make an idiot of themselves on national TV. Their captive audience rolls their eyes and switches to the gossip channel to find out who this celebrity is fucking this week. They fail, because they don’t use their network – they are doing this ass backwards.

How do you affect millions of gossip obsessed individuals who spend several hours per day informing themselves about daily lives and controversies of their favorite celebrities? You smuggle the message in. You wrap it around in controversy, top it of with a little bit of sex and just leave it in the open. The gossip network will lap it up, and distribute it to their customers in no time, thereby infecting millions of people with your hidden message. You can change popular perceptions, challenge the establishment, bend norms and etc by simply making dumb people think and talk about things they wouldn’t even consider otherwise.

These super-celebs are the most powerful people in the world. They can change perceptions, start memes and new trends without worrying about political, religious, social, ethnic or national differences. And they have a captive audience of millions and they can usually affect the people who are forever beyond the reach of any politician or religious leader. The problem is that they can’t be direct – they must work via memes and be subversive to achieve anything. That’s how their distribution network works.

Unfortunately most of the A list celebrities are idiots. Comparatively speaking that is. They are not movers and shakers – they are usually merely performers. They don’t have it in their make up to lead men, and break paradigms (if they can spell the word paradigm at all). People capable of doing these things usually go into politics, become writers, editors teachers and/or philosophers. And so, the celebrity gossip network remains under utilized for it’s potential.

Still, I sometimes do see a subversive memmetic torpedo being delivered through it. And when it hits, it is fun to see people reeling from the impact. Let me give you a recent example: have you heard about Lady Gaga’s penis? I did too – and I don’t even pay attention to that kind of shit. I don’t follow the lives of celebrities, I do not read gossip blogs and magazines and I don’t watch mainstream TV (unless you count History Channel and Adult Swim as mainstream, in which case I do) and I usually skip the entertainment section in the news. And yet, I heard this rumor somehow. The network sought me out, and delivered it to me via word of mouth even though I didn’t care and I wasn’t interested. Everyone heard it and everyone has an opinion about it. And so we go:

“If she had one, would it change anything? Would you treat her differently? What does it make you, if you fantasized about her before you found out? Is it right for her to speak on behalf of other women whilst having a vestigial male member? Can she still be considered a female role model? Or female for that matter? What defines gender? What defines sexuality? What would you do if you were born like that? What would you do if you were born like that and the doctors made the wrong choice and adjusted your gender incorrectly early on?”

I heard all of these things come up in conversations about her – and it goes on, and on. It’s funny how this little rumor changes the tone of conversation when it is mentioned. One minute people are objectifying her, and/or judging her for wearing skimpy clothes. Next minute they are quite seriously talking about gender identity, sexual orientation and associated issues. Half the time these conversations are embarrassingly judgmental, sexist and/or closed minded – but people are talking about it. They are considering these things, and at least making an attempt to understand. Oh, wait – wasn’t Lady Gaga also outspoken gay rights supporter. Wasn’t one of hear goals to spread just that kind of awareness? Initiate that kind of conversations?

Could this intentional? I really hope so, because this would be a perfect example how to use this network to literally rewire people and make them talk about and research things they wouldn’t normally care about. But it’s almost to clever to be true – and I’m disinclined to give anyone this much credit. Still, even if this is a random event, it is this is an example of a subversive memetic message that hits people right in the brain and throws them off balance. Viral messages like that could be spread through the gossip network like wind, allowing a clever celebrity to infect general public with new radical ideas.

Quick aside before I forget: isn’t it funny how objectification being judgmental goes hand in hand? Sometimes the switch between the two is so sudden that it takes me by surprise.

For example, let’s say I’m hanging out with some friends and they start talking about physically attractive celebrities they like. I state my preference and invariably someone says something like:

“How can you even like her? She is such a whore!”

What? I thought we were still doing objectification! I didn’t know we switched towards passing harsh moral judgment. Hold on, let me fetch my high horse so I can be more pretentious while I dispense mine. I mean, it’s not like I will ever meet these people, or have a chance to find out how they are in real life, but I won’t let that stop me.

For the record, I do not believe that any vast, wold wide secret conspiracy is currently utilizing this network – that would be silly. And no, don’t go looking in the archives for my conspiracy theory posts. I’m kind of past that stage now. Besides, if some all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful Illuminati secret society existed, it would already have full control over all the media so this is a moot point. Yes, corporations can and do use this network but they use it to sell you shit. It’s just basic viral advertising, and it’s no different to other viral advertising you see everywhere else. And it has similar success rate – the network can put ideas in people’s heads but it cannot make them act upon them.

I see this network mostly as a platform that select individuals could use to have their message heard. Not necessarily understood mind you – but heard nevertheless. It can implant ideas or notions which can slowly germinate and resonate within people. Whether they accept or eventually reject them however depends on the person in question. It is a subtle tool of influence, not some magical mind control device.

This is just something to think about. If you can think of any other messages delivered via the gossip network, list them in the comments.

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3 Responses to Celebrifixation

  1. Antonym CZECH REPUBLIC Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Let me give you a recent example: have you heard about Lady Gaga’s penis?
    – No, I didn’t… At least uptill now – and now you are to blame :D

    And I would really want to see, how exactly would you wrap some meaningfull message in controversy the way you proposed it. I think that this is easy to think about, but hard to actually do…

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Antonym wrote:

    No, I didn’t… At least uptill now – and now you are to blame

    See, it works. Ho held out for a while but the message got to you eventually.

    Antonym wrote:

    And I would really want to see, how exactly would you wrap some meaningfull message in controversy the way you proposed it.

    Well, that’s the trick, ain’t it? Some messages ate more difficult to transmit than the others. It’s really about viral advertising – you educate by doing. You influence through action.

    But you are correct. It is extremely difficult to do this right. And that’s why so few people do it.

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  3. James Heaver UNITED KINGDOM Internet Explorer Windows says:

    I think that if celebrities started to use their influence in that way it would be self defeating.

    I have a theory that the national interest in football (soccer) and celebrity allows people to have common topics of conversation without controversy.

    If I was a real man, I would be able to go up to another real man and talk about football (soccer) with him. We would be able to converse at a level between small talk and an actuall conversation without risking offence. If we tried talking about politics or religion it could end in a fight, or if it was a business context I could offend him so much we could lose a client etc.

    Football is safe, but it is in depth and passionate.

    Im starting to think that celebrity gossip is the same thing for people who don’t like football. If you started to add politics or moral messages to the mis you start adding risk to the conversation and it ceases to fill this social gap.

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