Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Cult of Celebrity

“The contemporary cult of celebrity was born in the sixties. All developed societies lavish attention on a small number of favoured people, rich, beautiful or talented. In eighteenth-century Europe it might be duchesses and court composers, in classical Rome orators and gladiators, in nineteenth-century Japan, warriors and courtesans. Details of their clothing, personal lives, foibles, family successes and disasters are gossiped about and vicariously enjoyed. They form a fantasy extended family, prettier and wickeder and more brightly coloured than the rest of us.

What has changed in recent decades is the scale of celebrity devotion, this cargo cult of modern Britain.It has elbowed aside rival forms in television entertainment, invaded and occupied popular newspapers and produced racks of magazines breathlessly following the face-lifts, marital break-ups, boob jobs and births of celebs. All of this originated in the mid-sixties. The cloying, ingratiating tone of contemporary magazines such as Hello! and OK! when interviewing or describing some frozen-faced doll can be found in the write-ups of the young set in British newspapers, supplements and the arch glossies of the sixties. The origins of ‘Big Brother’ television exhibitionism are buried in game shows and agony aunt columns half a century old. The raising of footballers and musicians from being tradesmen-servants of the public to misbehaving gods began then too.

Celebrities are often mocked for being talentless. Some are, some are not. A tribute paid to the young and beautiful by the rest of us, the circle of celebrity is paradoxically both very small and very open.From the outside the celebrity world seems to be a closed, charmed place, a marquee guarded by men with shaved heads and sunglasses inside which rock stars and footballers, actresses and princesses, all magically turn out to know one another. Yet what the sixties discovered was that celebrity must be open too in the sense of letting in new people from the streets, or it congeals into a resented elite. Modern celebrity has no time for a Samurai class or for haughty duchesses – it must be a fantasy island we could all paddle our way to, at least in theory. Cultural democracy rules, even while parliamentary democracy struggles.” (From A History of Modern Britain by Andrew Marr).

I think the cult of celebrity has been given extra power in recent years by the mutual reception of Neptune in Aquarius and Uranus in Pisces. Each planet is in a sign that the other rules and Neptune and Pisces are both associated with celebrity. And Aquarius/Uranus reflects the increasing democratisation of celebrity, where it almost becomes a virtue to have no talent (e.g. Victoria Beckham and Jade Goody): it shows that we could all do it.

Site Meter