A few years ago, Jacob Weisberg wrote an article about why we care about celebrities. It is an interesting question. Why do we care about Charlie Sheen’s latest drug rant, or Shia Labeouf’s most recent run-ins with the law? Why do we care about Justin Bieber’s spoiled-brat behavior or the Duggar family’s dirty laundry?
Weisberg suggests a few reasons. One reason is that people like to live vicariously – through what others are doing. Obnoxious sports parents often live vicariously through their athletic kids. Average folks fantasize about what it would be like to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, to get away with billy-goat sexual sins and to live a reckless life in which money is no object.
Then there is a thing called schadenfreude – the perverse pleasure we take in the misery of others. Celebrity gossip makes us feel better about ourselves. We may not be rich and famous, but at least our lives are not train wrecks like Lindsay Lohan’s or Mel Gibson’s. Solomon diagnosed this sickness of the human soul when he warned: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice” (Prov. 24:17).
Some of our infatuation with the stars is that we simply enjoy a good narrative, a good story. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a famous “bad boy” on the front page of the National Enquirer or a “prodigal son” celebrity who has finally cleaned up his act. We love a good story. As long as it isn’t ours.
On a deeper level, these celebrities or “stars” become “gods” to us. Why do they call the program American Idol? The half-god heroes of the ancient Greeks were lusty, drunken, brawling bad-boys. In other words, they were gods made in the image of men! We fashion our “gods” in our own image, “gods” who smile on whatever kind of soap-opera lives we choose to live! And if one of these “gods” ends up half-dead in a drug-den or a brothel, we canonize them into saints, blathering on about what great people they are.
Who our “heroes” are says as much about us as it does about them. It is sad that we crave such “heroes.” It was Daniel Boorstin, author of the 1962 book, The Image, who came up with the idea that a celebrity was someone famous for being famous, or as he put it, “a person who is known for his well-knownness.” Can anyone say, “The Kardashians?”
Christ is our Hero! Amazingly too, says the Bible, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). Paul urges the Philippian Christians to be “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” (Philippians 2:14-15). What an honor! Saved by Christ, the Hero born of woman, Christ now calls us – the blood-bought, baptized children of God – His “stars!”