8.23.2005

Celebrity vs. Integrity

Just thinking today...

I have often been very disturbed by what I see as a mix of human nature and a culture of celebrity that has become so pervasive in our world. It's usually discussed in the context of athletics and sometimes in the context of Hollywood. But, it's everywhere.

While we may mentally acknowledge that a man or woman's gifting is no measure of their character, we--as a culture--don't act like we believe that. We esteem charisma, talent, gifting far above integrity in almost every arena of our society. Think about it: what kind of people are the ones who 'get away with' things like immorality, financial corruption and abuse for years before confronted, if they're ever confronted? It's the charismatic, gifted and successful. Not that it isn't possible to be those things and walk in integrity and be a person of character. However, the ones who are consistently given a pass are the ones by whom we are enamored.

Why does a murderer like Scott Peterson continue to be flooded with letters from women who want to be with him? On the one hand, it is quite a sad statement about the women writing to him. On the other, human nature is easily deceived and enamored by charm.

OJ Simpson

Kenneth Lay
Ted Kennedy
Michael Jackson

Newt Gingrich
Bill Clinton
Jimmy Swaggart
Kofi Anan

I don't mean to pick on men. I'm just writing off the top of my head and can't think of women right now. But, these men are a testimony to the pathetic love affair we have with celebrity from the halls of Congress to the film screen to the church pulpit. I believe every one of those men was destined to shape our world in a positive way. I believe that every one of them may have truly been motivated to do good and make a difference. But there were other motives mixed in. And, I believe that they were done a disservice by being left alone and being, in some cases, idolized in their spheres of influence and in the culture at large.

It sad and sobering at the same time because the very people who set them on a pedestal end up being destroyed by their influence and deception.

I guess the moral of the story today is found in getting back to the basics. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are: 1) love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and 2) love your neighbor as yourself. If we love God with the entirety of our being, perhaps we will be less prone to deifying any human being because "all fall short of the glory of God." And, if we love our neighbors as ourselves, then we will both comfort and treasure them as well as confront, challenge and pray for them regardless of their personality, their career, their socio-economic status or their charisma.

We can't make anyone do anything they aren't willing to. However, if we love them as ourselves, we will do what we can to protect them from themselves when necessary. Something I think we all need at some point in our lives.

11 Comments:

At 8/23/2005 09:02:00 PM, Blogger void said...

Wow!! I loved this post. "... the very people who set them on a pedestal end up being destroyed by their influence and deception." - I just love natural selection, too. ;0)

 
At 8/23/2005 09:28:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Hey, lores:

Interesting post. Don't forget that there is a social dynamic at work here: build 'em up and tear 'em down. Think Marilyn Monroe. I do find your list telling, especially as I'm sure it was off the top of your head (and thus psychoanalytically interesting, potentially).

On another topic, check out my belated response to layman at the bottom of your "Dear Mrs. Sheehan" post here. Been busy; didn't want y'all to think I was ignoring him.

 
At 8/23/2005 09:55:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

doug: point noted. i actually came back to revise my post as i thought about the list. i'm adding a name or two to it right now.

 
At 8/23/2005 11:29:00 PM, Anonymous Jets said...

Wow this post is great! It can drive you crazy the attention given some people and how it seems they have nothing to give.

I admit to reading the stories of the self-important celebrities but hope to live my life different.

One important lesson for me comes from Philippians 2:3-4 "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

What a world this would be if people would live their lifes that way.

Keep up the great work, your writing is fantastic.

 
At 8/24/2005 12:17:00 AM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

As the mother of a 15 year old boy and a 16 year old girl, I'm am keenly aware of the messages sent today from a variety of sources. The beautiful and just plain lucky are idolized and lauded like gods and goddesses. It is soooo dangerous for kids these days to see these images if they are not balanced by good teaching at home that reminds them of their value. Kids can feel worthless because their lives aren't anything like what's on TV, movies, or in magazines.
Those men you listed are good examples of how the mighty fall.

 
At 8/24/2005 03:41:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

You must be right, Lores, I know I have a thing for Paris Hilton.

And no one knows why!

 
At 8/24/2005 03:52:00 AM, Blogger Jaymeister said...

In a sense, you have found a point of agreement with Noam Chomsky. He has written about how sports are nothing but a distraction for the masses to focus their energies on instead of the really important things that govern their lives. You can extend that sentiment to pop culture, the cult of celebrity, and tabloid journalism. As a result, not only are "celebrities" idolized in the way that you described (by the allure of celebrity itself), but the public discourse is about them disproportionately. That is not good for a functioning democracy, and that is where corporate media fail.

 
At 8/24/2005 04:13:00 PM, Blogger shelbymiddleton said...

oh, you know you're getting a comment from me on this one!

Might I add one or two...
Lil'Kim-charged with false testimony to the supreme court in a case several years ago. Her punishment for purgery? 366 days in jail. I'm sorry, that's pathetic. AND, to top it off, before going to the slammer, she gets to party it up in Miami for the MTV Video Music Awards this weekend.

I'll also add Kobe Bryant who's adultery, whether rape or consented, was swept under the rug.

Or how about Wynona Rider, the Shoplifter, who just paid a meager fine and probably picked up some trash on the highway.
Don't even get me started on Russell Crowe's violence or any of the other hundreds of examples of this very issue.

Sadly though, I can't completely blame the courts. If we didn't buy Us Weekly or People every day, maybe the idolization and notoriety wouldn't be such a problem. Once celebrities realize they've royally screwed up, they usually just issue a public apology via the hungry news media and the ears that deserve to hear that and have some sort of restoration, just get excited that they've made headline news and forget why they were asking for justice in the first place?

But really, in light of your aforementioned point of the lack of integrity, what would we be missing if these felons we call celebrities actually spent some time behind bars? Maybe it would overturn the monopoly of A-list actors' 6 movie contract deals and let a lesser known and arguably more talented actor have a shot.

Whew, sorry about that. That just touched one of my favorite topics: pop culture. I guess I just want to change the world...

 
At 8/24/2005 06:11:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

jaymeister: exactly right.

We start uncovering, here, the rift in the right between market fundamentalism and social conservatism...

 
At 8/24/2005 09:00:00 PM, Blogger Jaymeister said...

Doug,

Isn't that what Thomas Frank wrote about? The conservative politicians gain polpularity by raising people's ire on the moral issues, but in the end they don't do a thing about it because that would go against their corporate interests. It's amazing how long that charade has been going on.

 
At 8/25/2005 04:26:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

I believe it's a species of "bait-and-switch." If and when folks wake up to it, that'll be bad news for the Republicans.

 

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