FeaturesROLL UP, ROLL UP...


s fame the new religion and celebrities our gods? When John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus was he onto something?  Throughout history and across cultures, people have always worshipped idols, so why not the Beatles? Alternatively, was Lennon riding on a wave of his own narcissism? After all, he made that statement in 1966, at the same time as producing ?Strawberry Fields Forever? whilst admitting to using LSD.

Personally, I am not a fan of the Beatles but I certainly respect their talent and the impact they had on changing the face of music. Having said this I find Paul McCartney a nauseating sycophant with lyrics he should have been shot for ? ?Ebony and Ivory?, ?Silly Love Songs? and ?My Love?, to name just a few.  But as shooting someone is a criminal offence, watching Heather Mills in all her full glory sufficed. Ironically, ?My Love? has the line ?My love does it good? – well you?re not wrong there Macca, she did get a £23 million divorce settlement out of you.  She didn?t still need you and she didn?t still feed you when you were sixty four, did she? The press dined out on the Mills / McCartney saga as they did with Madonna, Guy Ritchie, Brad, Angelina and Jennifer, etc. etc. etc?… Since the advent of the tabloids, glossy magazines and TV soaps, we have always loved celebrity misdemeanours, such as Ms Hilton?s Oscar winning performance ?One night in Paris? and the sad demise of Amy Whinehouse?s mind, body and soul. 

Why do we have a fascination with the lives of the rich and famous? Evolutionary biologists say it is natural for humans to look up to individuals who receive attention because they have succeeded in society. In prehistoric times, this would have meant respecting good hunters and elders.  However, as hunting is not now an essential skill and longevity is more widely achievable, these qualities are no longer revered. Dr Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Liverpool, considers that following celebrities does not necessarily mean they are seen as role models. Apparently, we watch how celebrities behave because they receive a great deal of wealth from society and people want to ensure it is invested properly! Personally, I do not go for this theory, but if this is a plausible hypothesis I think we should get a refund on some of our investments, the elevated status of Paris Hilton and Jade Goody (God rest her soul) provides/provided no useful benefit to society. Actually, I stand corrected, as Jade Goody was responsible for a sharp increase in young females going for cervical smear tests. Research by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia considers that we ?rank? individuals according to how successful they are at the behaviours we try to copy, because whoever is getting more of what everybody wants is probably using above-average methods.  Here we have celebrities who provide the disenfranchised youth of ?Broken Britain? with moral and ethical guidelines to getting on in life. This goes a long way to explaining why, out of a survey of youngsters asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, 14 per cent replied ?a celebrity?. 

The fixation with celebrity culture among Brit kids has gone to the extent that the youngsters believe that education and hard work are not important in achieving success, according to a 2008 survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. More than 70 per cent of teachers in primary and secondary schools said the cult of celebrity was perverting children?s aspirations and expectations. About 37 per cent of teachers believe their pupils want to be famous for being famous. Another 2008 survey found one in seven Brit kids want to be like Paris Hilton or Peaches Geldof when they grow up. However, a majority of 16 to 21 year-olds polled wanted to be a singer or band musicians, followed by TV or other media job, only 13 per cent wanted to be teachers, 12 per cent doctors, 11 per cent lawyers and just 8 per cent nurses. 

The UK Government in response to the declining aspirations of Brit kids developed the ?The Talent and Enterprise Taskforce? in 2007, one of its objectives being to develop the talent and skills of Brit kids. In a Taskforce survey of 1,000 children, aged 6 to 18, they found one third of the kids believed those who sing are talented. In addition, one out of ten children said that talented meant being good at football, and 8 per cent believe that it corresponds with good dancing.  Worryingly, only 1 per cent thought that being talented means being intelligent or good at schoolwork. The survey also indicated that children failed to recognise talent in themselves, for the simple reason that they equated it with celebrity. Why do these Brit kids have a distorted view of what constitutes talent with no enthusiasm to engage in education?

Part of the problem is the decline of the family. The consequences of this in terms of poverty, educational underachievement, and anti-social behaviour are well known. We have a society of kids having kids where there is no family structure, no  male and female role models, no nurturing, with no encouragement and respect for self and others. On a daily basis on the streets in the UK, Vicky Pollard lookalikes are a common sight, pushing dirty kids in even dirtier prams, reprimanding their children with the foulest of language. Is it any wonder such children grow up angry with behavioural problems and are low in aspiration to live their adult life on benefits? Developmental psychology considers the first seven years of a child?s life are the most important in terms of shaping behaviour in life, accurately reflected in the Jesuit quote ?Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man?.

For some people their dreams, aspirations and reflections on how things could be so much better are lived out for them via the media. The reality is celebrities have high levels of narcissism, regarding the self as a superior being. Their lives are played out on an equally dissatisfied level, insecurity, addictions, failed marriages and dodgy cosmetic surgery. They are too busy watching us, watching them, so can someone tell me just who are today?s role models – parents, teachers, celebrities, the police, Gordon Brown, Barack Obama? It?s all a circus, a huge show and I for one want a refund on my ticket!

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