Opinion: Hero Worship

The idolization of celebrities inherently leads to disillusionment.


photo by Anirudh Koul is marked with CC BY 2.0.

The human tendency to place the rich and famous on a pedestal can distort our perceptions both of those we idolize and of ourselves.

Quinn Volpe, Co-Editor-in-Chief

A few weeks ago, my sister and I headed to Lawrenceville to see a small show in a pizza place and music venue called Spirit. I could tell relatively quickly that this wasn’t like any show I had been to before, and I’ve gone to around 50 in my lifetime.

For starters, we got the doors time – or when the doors were open for attendees – wrong, so we were the only concert-goers when we arrived. And then, after about half an hour and only five more people there, the artist, Claud, casually walked outside and asked us what spots we recommend in the area. 

I’ll admit that I was trying too hard to be cool, surprised by the presence of an artist that has worked closely with iconic musicians like Jack Antonoff and Phoebe Bridgers. But the shock and tears that inhabited the faces of those around me that followed Claud’s exit reminded me of just how toxic the idolization of celebrities can be.

It is rather easy for me to admit that a club show is much different than one at large arenas and stadiums that can hold thousands of people, but small actions and expectations from fans can just as easily turn into something more, especially when an artist is clearly on a path to stardom that exceeds shows with only a bit over one hundred people in attendance.

When fans treat their favorite celebrities as objects, most often unintentionally, whose every move matters enough to be captured by gossip and news sources or simply the constant attention of a group of individuals, it is much more likely that these people will see themselves in a similar light. This can be boiled down to a self-fulfilling prophecy, what Merriam-Webster defines as “becoming real or true by virtue of having been predicted or expected.”

In seventh grade, I was painfully obsessed with Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, among other artists. My closet still holds the proof of this era of my life, with numerous t-shirts from Hot Topic and concerts, and my ability to recite even the most difficult-to-memorize lyrics from older releases.

I even remember thinking to myself at certain points that he could do no wrong, which horrifies me to this day. Even when Urie was posting ignorant things on the internet for everyone to see, I disallowed myself to even have access to the resources to see and understand what he was doing. I basked in his music that had gotten me through tough times while idolizing him for creating it. 

Though it may be difficult to understand that a talented or attractive person who sits in the public eye is ultimately on the same level as everyone else, save for wealth and status, it is of the utmost importance to appreciate art, support artists’ careers, and leave it at that.

It was easier to recognize what he was doing in the midst of my obsession once it faded away and others took to social media to call him out, but it is still extremely regrettable that my obsession with a musician whom I barely knew anything about got in the way of me recognizing his wrongdoings.

Shane Dawson, a YouTuber, was called out a few years ago for horribly racist behavior in his old videos, including but not limited to using black face, saying the n-word, and incorporating racist stereotypes into skits, as well as his behavior toward young children. Even after all of this, he has millions of subscribers and riches unimaginable to most people.

While I would argue that Urie and Dawson probably acted in these ways before surpassing the amount of fame that they both have today, treating celebrities and social media stars as if they are perfect and unable to make mistakes allows them to see themselves in the same way.

While not everyone supported these two in the first place, all celebrities that cater to all kinds of audiences are capable of reaching a point at which their fans see them as worthy of idolization and the perception of perfection, and, likewise, perception of themselves as those things.

Cancel culture, a term that “refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive,” is the clear result of this idolization. There is debate over the reason or effectiveness of such cancellation, and while holding celebrities accountable for their actions is necessary, the high standards of perfection that we place upon them are often what guide them to act in such a disagreeable way in the first place. 

If nothing else, the end-all-be-all reason to not idolize celebrities is that they will never fail to disappoint us. This may sound blunt, but the truth of the matter is that any given celebrity placed on too high a pedestal will either let their idolizers down by simply not being good enough or, worse, acting in a manner that is entirely ignorant and upsetting. 

The best way to go about the treatment of public figures is to remind yourself of their humanity. Just like you and me, they will make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. Though it may be difficult to understand that a talented or attractive person who sits in the public eye is ultimately on the same level as everyone else, save for wealth and status, it is of the utmost importance to appreciate art, support artists’ careers, and leave it at that.