Just for the record, I’m not saying Katy Perry and Rihanna are ‘cows’ through my title. People who respect women reserve those personal attacks for Katie Hopkins, don’t you know?
No, the title is a reference to the Golden Calf in the Book of Exodus. Whilst Moses headed up into Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, the Israelites constructed the golden monument in his absence. Ever since, it’s become synonymous with idolatry – which is a big no-no for God.
In the present day, idolatry is still part of our day-to-day lives in ways we don’t realise. Since a majority of people are irreligious in the UK, we substitute any reverence for God with an admiration of public figures. This goes across the board from political figures (Many a University student has chanted ‘OH, Jeremy Corbynnnnnnn’) to singers to football players to reality TV stars.
Though many people are critical of our celebrity obsessed culture, there’s clearly a market for them. Gossip magazines wouldn’t be propped up in the check-out line if nobody was buying them, morning TV shows wouldn’t have ‘Show Biz’ segments if nobody tuned in.
So who are these people that soak up the celebrity culture?
Admittedly, I’m probably more guilty of this than anybody. I hold my hands up to wasting rainy afternoons watching celebrity interviews for seemingly no reason at all. On those days I find myself binge-watching old Oprah episodes, my cynicism for celebrity culture gets left in the dust.
On some level, the surreal nature of the celebrity world fascinates me. The fact that they literally give themselves over for public consumption is utterly compelling. In a 2014 interview, Taylor Swift admitted “I haven’t been truly alone in the last five years”. (1)
As somebody who values privacy and the freedom to walk to the shop looking like I’ve gone two rounds with Mike Tyson, that’s such a frightening prospect to me. If anything, the celebrity lifestyle is a cautionary tale for me – something to avoid.
But for increasing numbers of people, becoming a celebrity is an aspiration. Recent studies consistently show that young children aspire to be famous above all else, whether that’s as a singer or a Youtube sensation. (2) Many are outraged at this trend but it’s hardly surprising. For some reason, we’ve sought to collectively hold celebrities up as role models. Whenever a footballer is caught in the middle of a controversy involving cheating or racism, commentators often remark, “They’re being such bad role models!”
Why are celebrities role models? They’re nothing exceptional in terms of moral standing. If anything, celebrities seem to be disproportionately involved in criminal behaviour, adultery, racism and a whole host of bad behaviour. But often we’ll hear about how celebrities are figures to look up to – how Kim Kardashian taught women to embrace their naturally curvaceous figures seems to be a recurring suggestion (And I suppose Donald Trump has taught people the value of humility!)
Ultimately, the media are the ones showcasing celebrities and presenting them to the public. It’s a sad reality that more people would be able to recall who Jake Paul is than they would be able to recognise Mamoudou Gassama – the African migrant who recently saved a small boy from falling to his death in Paris.
We have a choice ultimately. Instead of remarking “Stop making stupid people famous!”, we could stop playing the media’s game. So long as ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Love Island’ remain dominant in television ratings, people are going to aspire for nothing more than fame and fortune.
1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-TFhUq3otQ [Taylor Swift Barbra Walters Interview | Barbra Walters Most Fascinating People | ABC News]