With the endless media outlets posting celebrity gossip by the minute, it is nearly impossible to steer clear of the tabloids. Having celebrities’ personal and public life be so open to the world can have an effect on how interested we are with gossip. The term celebrity worship syndrome (CWS) was first coined by James Chapman in the 2003 article “Do you worship the celebs?” This syndrome, also sometimes known as mad icon disease, is psychological based syndrome and is still fairly new. According to psychologists at the University of Leicester, 36% of people suffer from this syndrome and the number is increasing.
Why do people have the obsession of worshiping celebrities? Chapman states that one theory could be that celebrities take place of absent family and friends because TV has a huge impact on society. It has been noted by psychologists that fan bases have characteristics that resemble religion. An example would be Star Trek and how their followers resemble a cult by collecting memorabilia or the followers pursue the celebrities personal and public lives outside of the TV show.
While most would assume CWS is not normal, others have suggested that celebrity worship is good for your health. Shira Gabriel, a psychologist at the University of Buffalo, believes that if people have low self-esteem and have a fear of rejection out of relationships, then having a connection with a celebrity can be a positive experience for the fans. Gabriel conducted a study of 348 college students and asked them to complete a self-esteem questionnaire. After the initial test, she had them write about their favorite celebrity for five minutes. Afterward, the participants re-took the same questionnaire. The results showed that those who scored lower on the first test scored higher on the second test after writing about their favorite celebrity.
After reading both sides of the argument, I can understand how Gabriel believes celebrity obsession can be positive because it can make fans feel better about themselves. If the obsession is taken to a higher level, then when does it become not normal and unsafe? Positive celebrity role models are good to look up to because they can help motivate you to achieve your goals. What happens when it is a negative celebrity role model? The negative influence from a celebrity cannot be something positive.
I believe that liking a particular celebrity or TV show is harmless. Fan bases and spending your paycheck collecting memorabilia can be different, but when it comes to spending your life dedicated to a particular person or TV show, then the fans have taken their obsession to another level.
Chapman provides a guideline to determine if you suffer from Celebrity Worship Syndrome. Check to see if what your CWS level is!
Say yes to the following and you may have low-level CWS:
- My friends and I like to discuss what my favorite celebrity has done.
- I enjoy watching my favorite celebrity.
- Learning the life story of my favorite celebrity is a lot of fun.
Agree with these more intense feelings and you may have a moderate case:
- I consider my favorite celebrity to be my soul mate.
- I have a special bond with my celebrity.
- I have frequent thoughts about my celebrity, even when I don’t want to.
Agree with these and you may be obsessed, borderline pathological and suffering seriously from CWS:
- If someone gave me several thousand pounds to do with as I please, I would consider spending it on a personal possession, like a napkin or paper plate, once used by my favorite celebrity.
- If I were lucky enough to meet my favorite celebrity, and they asked me to do something illegal as a favor I would probably do it.
- I would be very upset if my favorite celebrity got married.