How many celebrities does one experience in one day? In the morning, perhaps one wakes and creates a breakfast that they learned from the Frontier Woman using their Rachel Ray cookware. Then we enter our car that was a sponsored by an athlete, insured by Peyton Manning’s Chicken Parm-eating Nationwide, and turn on the radio to hear Lady Gaga or Blink-182 on our commute to work, where perhaps we see a billboard featuring an actress or local hero (my personal favorite being the ironic depiction of Tommy Pham of the St. Louis Cardinals boasting the wonders of the Metrolink).
Afterwards, they arrive at their workplace where any number of interactions could occur. A job involving driving can once again be subject to the radio, a teacher could play last night’s news segment featuring famed reporters, or any worker could have reading and podcasts to enjoy on breaks and lunches. The celebrity cannot be avoided, but in most cases, consumers don’t want to ignore them. This relationship is fickle, as at any moment of displeasure, the consumer can take down the celebrity.
The Celebrity Market
Celebrity is our most consumed good outside of necessities. People crave the narrative, the drama and the dopamine boost we get from these heightened individuals. We find our own satisfaction in their successes and give our condemnation in their shortcomings, sometimes even taking personal responsibility for one or the other.
The lives of these people have been so commodified that they aren’t even viewed as persons and truthfully, this fame is an odd thing. Celebrity is a force, or an idea of what we desire them to be and we give our dollar when we enjoy what that idea presents. The people’s deeds, real or perceived, are what makes connection, and there is a detachment from society’s viewing of celebrities. They aren’t human, but almost super humans who have a large influence on what people do.
Johnny Manziel eats a Snickers to transform back to the Browns’ papier maché quarterback from “Johnny Jamboogie”, and then one craves a chocolate bar. People become more vocal on their beliefs when they see a celebrity mirroring them. Joan Rivers arrives with her head digitally placed on an attractive younger woman during the Super Bowl and the consumer suddenly wonders “what is GoDaddy.com?”
Celebrity is unlike any other good because it acts as a medium to other products and ideas. On the flip side of the coin, celebrity also can have severe consequences should the demand suddenly plummet. Much like any other good, when we’re done, or it displeases us, we discard it.
How We Consume Celebrity
The difference between a typical, consumable good and celebrity is that one we can place in the trash or sell, and no one is harmed. In the selling of the good, a citizen is actually better off for receiving cash for something they did not want, and the buyer received a desired item for their less desired money. With celebrity, consumers cannot sell it, so the only option is to toss it, and with superhuman expectations, it concludes in a superhuman descent.
Think of Bill Cosby, once a loved comedian and creator of hit shows like the Cosby Show, Fat Albert and Little Bill, is suddenly a heathen of sexual assault. The combined market forces of consumers’ refusal have that man ruined for the rest of his days. A video of David Hasselhoff shirtless, drunk, and eating a cheeseburger caused his stock to plummet. Roseanne Barr makes a racial comment on another actress’ appearance and is booted from her show and will be lucky to get much work again.
This unique position that the general market resides within gives a power to ruin someone’s life should they displease enough people. Celebrity teaches us just how much influence an everyday citizen has within the economy. If enough people toss out the good of fame, the consequences can be swift and severe.
I saw this first hand when I was a student at the University of Missouri during the protests that spawned acts of racism and bigotry, including a fecal swastika in one of the bathrooms. The drama began with a prominent student going on a hunger strike, and was followed by marches through campus, an occupation of the south quad, and reached its summit when someone made public threats to shoot black members of campus. All it took for the president of the university to be pressured into resigning was one video of him botching his answer to a student’s inquiries on his definition of institutional racism.
Enough support from the student body caused one man to lose his top position at a university. I’m not arguing that one needs to be conscious of every decision they make in regard to our goods of stardom, but that even the most powerless person can have vast influence over a person. No matter how much government’s try to control commerce or how many times a business tries to fog our consumer glasses, all that’s needed is enough people to drop demand and change the market.
Read more from Luke at Think Liberty here.