Since the ancient years until today, in the capitalist societies, it is undoubtable the fact that stars play an important role in terms of society and the way it is structured. Celebrities have great influence upon people’s lives. They serve as role models in a society.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the modern meaning of the term celebrity, actually derives from the fall of gods and the rise of democratic governments and secular societies. The root of the word celebrity derives from the latin word celere from which the English word celerity derives meaning ‘swift’. The latin roots indicate a relationship in which a person is marked out as possessing singularity and a social structure in which the character of fame is fleeting.
Based on the latter it could be argued that stars, or celebrities could reflect the internal operation mechanism of a society. Moreover, they have the power to suggest and introduce new cultural norms and shape different perceptions of reality. In particular, the first celebrities who managed to establish new norms and considered themselves as descendants of Gods, were Alexander the Great and the Romans. These celebrities constituted the leading figures, the pedagogues of the ancient world.
In our era celebrities still retain the aforementioned qualities but they are expressed in different ways due to our democratic, capitalist regime. Additionally, the rise of celebrities in our western world is related to the decline in the organized religion. In particular, people feel the need to believe in something that has superior skills and powers. After religion, it is celebrities who have come to undertake this role in popular culture. A statement that confesses this divine power that stars have upon our lives, derives from John Lennon who in 1996 said that Beatles were ‘more popular than Jesus’. During that era, ill people believed that if they could but only touch Lennon, they could be cured immediately.
Just Like Jesus and the emperors of the ancient world, celebrities not only have divine characteristics but they also have a human aspect that makes them appealing to the people. As Leo Bandy argues:” Alexander remains the earliest example of paradoxical fame in which the authority of a hero is yet a model for support of ordinary human nature’. When people see this social profile, they automatically feel that the celebrity is not a distant stranger, but rather a familiar person which deserves admiration and glory. This is one of the many reasons for the fact that people want stars in their life.
Furthermore, celebrities are the informal life coaches in our lives. Stars like Angelina Jolie, Bono, Elton John, Madonna, David Bowie etc. through the difficulties that they confronted in their lives they give courage to other people to go on. However, it is not only that…with the financial support, they help children from undeveloped countries with philanthropic activities and some of them have already built Institutions and Hospitals. An example to support this argument is Elton John, who established the Elton John AIDS FOUNDATION.
As a consequence of the aforementioned, I could not help but wonder…was Warhol right? Is it true what he said? That more than anything people just want stars? Is it true that they are important in terms of society? That they give us the sense of escapism and the aura of superiority? Of course it is…we see it everyday. But in the end of the day…what about us? Τhe commoners…(as Bowie said) Could we be heroes just for one day? Be the stars in our own lives?