So, what then is the supposed fascination with celebrities? Ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 answers, ranging from our ingrained fear of death (which is clearly ridiculous) to low self-esteem, and susceptibility due to childhood trauma. I submit this is all mostly nonsense and that the answer is something far simpler than this. It is both a hierarchy and political issue.
If you look up, in the sense of a hierarchy, you will learn from those above you. Learn from what they have achieved and how they did it. This is true too when you look up, in the sense of parenting, teaching, adulthood and anywhere there is a master-student dynamic. Observe others and you will learn from them. This is not revolutionary. It is widespread in nature and like it or not, we still form part of nature.
But if the answer lies in looking up why then celebrities? Why not uncle Bob from down the road? Two reasons: celebrities are successful (in many respects although seldom to the level of perception) and this places them front and centre. In other words, they are far more difficult to ignore than uncle Bob from down the road. Second, along with the ingrained need to learn we all harbour a deep-seated resentment for those who have more than us. This leads to looking up at them while secretly revelling in their mistakes and failures. It’s a double-edged sword.
The second reason we follow celebrities is closely related to learning, it is political, or societal. They occupy a space where they have the attention of others and are perceived to be successful in the social dynamic. We think people like them. To fit in and be valued you need to… fit in. Emulating people who are doing this well, will drastically improve your chances of success.
To understand why we are fascinated with celebrities we must be honest with ourselves. Honest about human-nature. As a society, many of the traits we harbour are deemed undesirable and so we work hard at concealing them, ignoring them, and denying we experience them. Unfortunately, in reality, they still exist and will continue to do so. Designed to give us maximum chance of survival, it is unlikely we will evolve to exclude them, no matter how distasteful we believe them to be.