We are all fans in our own ways. Some idolize sports stars, others musicians and some others look towards politicians for inspiration. In the last few years particularly, right wing governments in the West and India have stirred emotions among the public at large. No matter what the flaws were in the government’s policies, they were largely ignored as people supported the leaders that they had elected.
It is true that some media has been openly critical of government policies but public trust in traditional media has eroded to a large extent. The rise of social media has meant that leaders need no longer be dependent on press conferences to convey their message to the public. The most striking example of this phenomenon is in India where the Modi government is yet to hold a single press conference in nearly seven years in power. Even the interviews that have been given by Modi seem to be scripted and rehearsed.
However, the public needs inspiration in order to go about their routine lives. Hence, it is not surprising that they choose to ignore the obvious flaws in the leaders that they elect. This was most apparent in the rise and eventual presidency of Donald Trump. How else can one explain the election of a man known for his real estate riches, reality TV appearances and attitudes towards women? It is true that he was up against a candidate like Hillary Clinton who had a chequered history when it came to her husband’s record and her own support of policies like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the Trans Pacific Protocol (TPP) trade agreement.
We seem to be blind in our faith towards celebrities. We attach tremendous importance to what they say, the product they endorse and the views they express towards public policies. Recently, we saw a huge outcry in India when the pop star Rihanna brought her attention to the farmer’s protests that have rocked the country. This was further built upon by the teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris (niece of current US VP Kamala Harris). These activities put the government on the backfoot and it set forth a reaction where Indian film stars and cricketers tweeted in defense of the government. However, it is worth noting that their celebrity status does not accord them with the knowledge of what is the reality of the agriculture sector and the impact of the farm laws.
Yet, we continue to idolize celebrities and follow their lives to the minutest of details. It is almost as if we live vicariously through them and try to imitate them. Hence, when they endorse products we almost assume that they must be using the products themselves while they actually they may have little or no awareness of the products. We recently saw an incident where Saffola oil which brands itself to be good for the heart was embarrassed when its brand ambassador — former Indian cricket captain Saurav Ganguly suffered a minor heart attack. The brand immediately made the news because of this unfortunate incident.
In our hearts, we all desire to be rich and famous. Hence, it is not surprising that we look up to celebrities and follow their lives almost with a sense of fanaticism. If only we were to apply the same sense of effort and hard work to their lives then we would be a transformed society. However, not all of us are blessed with the will power and single mindedness that individuals have who make it to the status of celebrities.
However, we need to realize that there is only so much trust we can repose in celebrities. They are humans like the rest of us. We live in a society where money can buy trust by contracting celebrities for endorsements. Hence, we need to be careful about our almost fanatical love for celebrities. The most sensible thing would be to support them in their respective fields while not being blind to their humane flaws. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
The road to success and fame is a long, hard and arduous one. Celebrities have gone through the journey of hard work and effort and reached their status after a long time. It is but natural that the majority of the population looks up to them as they lack the willpower to emulate celebrities. However, the problem lies when we accept their word at face value and do not scrutinize them to the level required. This applies for politicians, artists, activists and all celebrities.
The line between being fans and fanatics is a fine one. Looking up to celebrities is fine as long as we realize that they too are humans and fallible. Rather than accepting their words at face value, we should subject their lives to analysis and emulate their hardworking efforts. Behind every celebrity, lies a story of backbreaking hard work and effort.
It is far simpler to simply take celebrities at face value. We just assume that they would have thought as deeply about their words as they do with their work. Hence, a Rihaana with a 100 million followers got the Government of India in a tizzy. All that Rihanna had done was link to a CNN piece on the farmers protests and asked why we weren’t talking about this movement. Further, as a pop star what does she know about the intricacies of the farm laws and the reality of the Indian agricultural sector? Yet, such is the power of celebrities that the government was forced to take action and assemble celebrity tweets of its own.
At the end of the day, the choice whether we choose to be fanatical in our followings or be fans that respect celebrities is our own. The temptation will always exist to be blind in our following. This is why so many brands invest in celebrities for promotion work. We must open our eyes and form informed opinions of our own. Only then can we do justice to our tags of fans. Just like being a celebrity, being an informed fan is no simple matter. However, it is worth the effort.