The Psychology of Modern Celebrity

Nothing human alien is to me, I understand nothing that is human: I cannot quite make up my mind which describes my situation the better. But certainly one of the things that I do not understand is the cult of celebrity; it mystifies me completely. It is not that I am uninterested in gossip, provided it is about someone known to me personally, even if but slightly, and is sufficiently malicious, as it usually is. But I cannot imagine what it is like to immerse oneself in the details of the personal lives of people whose fame is ephemeral and with whom one is no more likely to consort than with the upper ranks of the North Korean armed forces.

I was waiting for a train in Union Station in Washington recently and passed the time by the news-stand. There were a lot of magazines devoted to the pseudo-private lives of precisely the type of celebrities of whom I have never heard. The headlines were as follows:

Exclusive: Garth’s back!
Why I chose family over fame.
Taylor’s new bad boy.
It’s official for Jen.
3 months pregnant
Joy: The day she found out.
Shock: she had stopped trying.
Big plans: The wedding – all the details.
Kim’s humiliation
Dumped on her first anniversary:
She begs Kanye to stay: ‘I can’t get divorced again.’
Kim’s big lie about trying for another baby.
She’s wearing a wig – stress is making her hair fall out!

Garth, Taylor, Jen, Kim and Kanye: no need, evidently, to say Garth, Taylor, Jen, Kim and Kanye who, they are assumed to be as familiar to the reader as the persons living with them. And they themselves must presumably want to be familiar to others in this way: for whether a woman or a couple is trying for a baby is something that can be known only to her or to them, unless they want it to be known – or unless the magazines make the stories up out of whole cloth.

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