Why is growing up in the spotlight so hard?
As an amature psychologist, I love to observe popular culture. It gives me a reflection of what the collective consciousness is thinking about. One particularly strange phenomenon is associated with how we view our young celebrities. We love to shower them with fascination and watch their every move. As time goes by, it seems like the more they act out, the more we love to watch, as they descend into loss, addiction, and other out of control behaviors.
It seems that at first, we love the fantasy that someone could find themselves rich and famous who is just like us. We want to know the intimate details of their lives as if they were our personal friends. Then as they spiral into a fame fueled nightmare, we say to ourselves, “I knew they were no good”. It stems from the fear of freedom. We want to know that it’s ok for us to fail, to be comfortable with our life choices that are not based on risk and freedom. I think they call it the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.
It is more prevalent in some cultures than others. North America is actually one of the freest cultures when it comes to supporting acts of behavioral independence. Some cultures can’t wait till the next celebrity or politician to fail before supporting the bloodlust that follows a media feeding frenzy. For many in the public eye, it’s almost like a rite of passage, the inevitable backlash. If there existed a school for celebrity’s there would most likely be a class called “weathering the media backlash”.
I’m sure anyone who has experienced it, has been changed for life, for the better, I hope. Once you see through the false idolatry that seems to be love, it’s a freeing moment. Realizing that the fantasy that people project on you is only a reflection of themselves, and has nothing to do with the real you, is a moment of maturity and clarity that our loving mind needs to see, individually and collectively. You can actually see the change in the faces of those who have gone through the dark and come out the other side. Britney Spears is a good example. The shape of her face is different now. It’s a shame that it seems like Michael Jackson never quite reached the stage of releasing the fantasy that people had of him. Sometimes it’s tough to grow up.