“I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything that they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.’ -Jim Carrey
“As we bow to the golden statue called Oscar… joining in rituals of exaltation, and reading our sacred gossip columns…[we see from the stories] The desire for some kind of redemption pulses through human life.” -S. Brent Plate
I’m in California this weekend speaking at a conference, and they asked me to do my series “Extras.” And since I’ve been writing lately on the kind of insidious idolatry we are all guilty of this got me thinking….
One of the most disturbing things I learned when I was in Hollywood was how cutthroat the entertainment industry is. I was working on a show, in a rather scandalous scene, when one of my female extra friends whispered to me, “This is the part that I hate.”
Apparently,what often happens is that the director needs some more eye candy for a scene, and he needs to pick a girl or two out of a lineup. So this girl told me that it was common for them to tell a room of several girls to undress so the director could pick one based on their bodies.
And if you wanted the job, a more prominent scene, maybe even a recurring part, you would do it.
We bleed for our gods.
Now I hesitated to tell that story, because of the anti-Hollywood bias that Christians gravitate toward. We need more Jesus-followers living and serving in that industry. In fact, that same girl who told me she hates being in a line up to see if her body is good enough is a Christian. She was a Jesus follower who had been in rooms like that before.
And before we get all high and mighty, just realize there’s a good chance you put her there.
Pete Ward teaches at a seminary in London, and he wrote a book about our culture of celebrity worship. He starts off by asking “Have you ever wondered why we mourn so much when a celebrity dies?” Think about it, when Michael Jackson died the entire news world ground to a halt.
We were in the middle of two wars, an economic melt down, and now we are listening to what meal MJ had the last time he was at Burger King. And Ward points out the reason this is such a big deal isn’t because of the their talent, but the collective “us” we’ve allowed each celebrity to represent.
But did you know that celebrity worship is consistently associated with poor mental health, like worry, anxiety, and depression?
Among women specifically, most body image related mental health issues are, on some level, tied to the way we view celebrities and ourselves. And that should disturb all of us, because almost all of us participate in celebrity worship. And most of the time it’s so subtle, we don’t even know we are doing it.
So we think that it’s stupid all the fuss that people make over Brittany Spears or Paris Hilton, but for some reason we know a lot of details of her life.
Christina Kelly, an editor for Sassy magazine, says the reason that we worship celebrities is because, “We know that to be human is to feel inconsequential.”
Think about how profound that statement is. Here’s someone who works in the industry, and she says we “worship” not because of who they are, but because of our awareness of who we aren’t. There is this deep awareness that we have that something is off-kilter with our heart. Part of the reason that we are drawn to and participate in this crazed celebrity culture, is because something deep within us tells us that we are broken.
So why do we put our hope in fame to fix it?
To Know and be Known
This past week, Donald Miller interviewed Tony Hale (Buster Bluth from the incredibly funny show Arrested Development) and he asked him, “Why do you think people are obsessed with fame? What do you think this says about us as a culture?”
And here’s what Tony/Buster said:
I think that it’s grounded in the fact that everybody desperately wants to be known, and they think that fame is kind of the ultimate of being known—“If that many people know me…then it’s going to satisfy that. The thing is, when you get to that place, you’re only going to find true satisfaction if you’re known in an eternal, spiritual sense by Somebody greater than yourself. I think a lot of people have gotten to that place where they have been known by a lot of people, and it still doesn’t satisfy….If you don’t find something greater than yourself who knows you—knows truly who you are—and you feel known by them, then you’re going to spend the rest of your life trying to be known by a ton of other people. You’re only going to find true satisfaction if you’re known in an eternal, spiritual sense by Somebody greater than yourself.”
I think this is incredibly profound. We want to be known by Someone greater than ourselves. That’s what our hearts our hungry for, and our pursuit of fame is only a reflection of a dim reality.
This is what Buster is getting at, it’s what Jim Carrey is trying to explain…the thing we think we want is really not able to fulfill us.
It’s an idol that can never deliver on it’s promise.
Do you know what the final stage of Christian Theology is? Gloria.
In other words Fame: It is the applause of God.
Save your worship for that.