The Cult of Celebrity Worship

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW

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Neon lights, a Nobel Prize Then a mirror speaks, the reflection lies You don’t have to follow me Only you can set me free I sell the things you need to be I’m the smiling face on your T.V. I’m the cult of personality I exploit you still you love me ~ Living Colour; William Calhoun / Corey Glover / Vernon Alphonsus Reid / Muzz Skillings

AsI step back to observe the negative machinations of identity politics I find myself pondering how our shared psychological need for safety and predictability contributes to believing that those bestowed with fame, power and charm offer messianic deliverance.The reliance on primitive ego defenses such as confirmation bias collectively bolsters the deification of celebrities.

Confirmation bias only considers that which supports what people want to believe.

This fixation on ‘truth’ that rejects concrete evidence that is contrary to the prescribed view expresses itself in the mythologizing of eminent personalities. The collective longing to escape the challenges of the human condition fuels the aggrandizing of high-ranking people.

This proclivity to imbue celebrities with iconic omnipotent properties aligns with psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s warning about identifying with archetypes. Archetypes are representative of universal symbolic patterns that according to Jung are hardwired into our psyches.

There are perilous implications when we identify as opposed to relate to archetypal motifs.

For example, relating to The Hero offers insight and growth. One can consider the Hero’s strengths and fallibility. However when one identifies with the Hero archetype one can become consumed by its power, blinding us to reality. Accordingly, polarization in dragon slaying and the longing for rescue can diminish the capacity to realistically assess the vast spectrum of humanity. The hero then becomes a deified perfect being devoid of human flaw.

Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud and known as the father of public relations, pioneered the manipulation of the masses through PR campaigns which capitalized on the emulation of archetypal motifs. Joseph Goebbels, the minister of propaganda for the Third Reich created a Fuhrer cult based on Bernay’s writings.

Branding, marketing, and advertising taps into the collective unconscious of the audience so as to generate archetypal narratives that captivate and control. The engineering of the celebrity personae extrapolates from this premise.

This delusional mindset might insidiously express itself by demonizing those who threaten to demythologize men of stature. Much like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, the power of celebrity enabled the heinous actions of BBC star and philanthropist Jimmy Saville. Knighted by Queen Elizabeth and Pope John Paul II, friends with the Royal family and the Thatcher’s, Saville was a prolific pedophile, sexual predator and necrophiliac. Yet in the public eye he conformed to an image of benevolence and virtue. Likewise, the romanticizing of the British Royal Family obscures a nefarious history of unabashed support of Hitler and the Nazi regime, as well as extensive colonial tyranny in India and capitalizing from the African slave trade.

The manufacturing of trends, iconic persons and causes relies on the basic premise that we see what we want to see and we see what the powers that be want us to see.

Case in point is the sudden exposure of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein and the dismissal of Roman Polanski (and Cosby) by the Film Academy (it only took 40 years!). There is nothing new about the insidious ‘casting couch’ but contemporary exposure by lauded celebrities is being sold to the public as a shattering display of activism and righteous morality. While this is certainly a relevant social issue, when it comes neatly packaged as a media ploy, critical thinking gets obscured.

One might question why now and what is the underlying motive beyond ostensibly dismantling institutionalized sexism? Unfortunately those who dare to examine in this way are labeled politically incorrect and paranoid.

Essentially submersion in fantasy corrodes free thinking and objective reality.

This is very dangerous to consider given the geo-political landscape. It lends itself to wondering what is real and what is socially engineered.

While we are busy being distracted by clickbait and the latest trends we will continue to lose sight of the more important issues plaguing ourselves and our world.

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As a survivor (and thriver) of complex trauma and a seasoned therapist specializing in treating complex trauma, narcissistic abuse syndrome and addictions, I am intent on creating content that affords informative insight, hope and healing from psychological disorders. I aim for my creative content to assist readers with tapping into the resiliency of the human condition while recognizing the countless challenges of being human.

New York City, NY
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