All hail Hollywood!

Jenna Culpepper, Opinion Editor

On the foggy morning of Sunday, Jan. 26, a helicopter was spotted amidst the clouds. With one loud pop–as a 911 caller noted–the helicopter went up in flames and came crashing down into the side of a mountain in Calabasas, California. All nine passengers were tragically killed on impact.

Yet, the media mainly focused on two of the victims: Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, Gigi. Friends, family, and fans are left reeling in the wake of their deaths, but so were the friends and family of those other seven victims.

If Bryant and his daughter weren’t on that helicopter, perhaps the media wouldn’t have cared all too much. In fact, the whole world would never have known about it if it weren’t for their deaths.

The death of prominent figures will always take over the news, but Bryant’s death made me wonder: why does our culture worship celebrities? They can be inspirations and examples, trendsetters and fashion icons; however, I believe our culture has elevated celebrities to an unreasonably high level.

Another death I think of when it comes to our culture’s celebrity worship is Cameron Boyce. As an actor on Disney Channel’s Jessie and Descendants, many people in our generation—Generation Z—watched him growing up. We fell in love with him as a character and continued to follow him long after Jessie ended.

Boyce’s death on July 6, 2019, took my social media bubble by storm. Everyone was posting about his sudden, unexpected death for days.

It was tragic, but were these fans personally affected? Not truly, because none of us personally knew Bryant or Boyce or any of these other celebrities that we follow thousands of miles away. What we know about them is merely whatever public image they have put out for us. Their image is intended to highlight their strengths and minimize their shortcomings.

So, again, how genuine is this grief when it is so impersonal? We don’t wake up with the reality of never being able to see our siblings, parents, or friends again. We just think, “She was an incredible actor. I can’t believe I’ll never see another movie with her,” or “It’s a shame we’ll never hear anymore of his music.”

Celebrities have been celebrated for far too long. In fact, this worship has gone so far that it has been defined as a legitimate disorder. Celebrity worship syndrome is described as an obsessive-addictive disorder where a person becomes overly involved with the details of a celebrity’s personal and professional life.

Yes, that is a real thing, so why would this ever be defined if we—as a society—didn’t have a problem? This is what leads me to believe that the celebrity cycle of crashing and burning needs to end.

We can’t live always looking to someone else. We need examples and people to aspire to be like, but we need realistic expectations. People need tangible role models and real people to influence them, not the fake, plastic celebrities of today.

So, look around. I believe that everyone has plenty of people to look up to. Between teachers, friends, and family we all have someone who can walk alongside us.