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FAME & CELEBRITY Glenn Wilson PhD King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry.

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Presentation on theme: "FAME & CELEBRITY Glenn Wilson PhD King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry."— Presentation transcript:

1 FAME & CELEBRITY Glenn Wilson PhD King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry

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6 WHAT DO THESE HAVE IN COMMON? Trailer trash air their dirty linen on the Jerry Springer show. Trailer trash air their dirty linen on the Jerry Springer show. A child dives into a swimming pool screaming “Mummy, Daddy, look at me!” A child dives into a swimming pool screaming “Mummy, Daddy, look at me!” Failed actor John Wilkes Booth, living in the shadow of his famous brother, shoots President Lincoln from a box at the theatre. Failed actor John Wilkes Booth, living in the shadow of his famous brother, shoots President Lincoln from a box at the theatre. Britney Spears appears knickerless in public & shaves off all her hair before the paparazzi. Britney Spears appears knickerless in public & shaves off all her hair before the paparazzi. All are desperate cries of “I want to be noticed” All are desperate cries of “I want to be noticed”

7 MODERN OBSESSION WITH CELEBRITY Is it a sickness of society that we put such a premium on empty celebrity? Is it a sickness of society that we put such a premium on empty celebrity? Vast amounts of attention/money bestowed on small number of people with high profile or a sensational story to sell/tell. Vast amounts of attention/money bestowed on small number of people with high profile or a sensational story to sell/tell. No need for any special talent or achievement – mere exposure in tabloids/TV sufficient. Nobel prize- winners would not be noticed. No need for any special talent or achievement – mere exposure in tabloids/TV sufficient. Nobel prize- winners would not be noticed. Not surprising that people do extraordinary things for “15 minutes of fame” (streak, appear on reality shows, produce obscene art, shoot famous people). Not surprising that people do extraordinary things for “15 minutes of fame” (streak, appear on reality shows, produce obscene art, shoot famous people). Distinction between fame and infamy diminishing Distinction between fame and infamy diminishing (O.J. Simpson, Monica Lewinsky, Liam Neeson). (O.J. Simpson, Monica Lewinsky, Liam Neeson).

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9 DOWNSIDE Press intrusion: Living in “goldfish bowl”/media forage for sexual indiscretions – destroy relationships. (“Celebs strive for recognition then wear dark glasses to avoid it”). Press intrusion: Living in “goldfish bowl”/media forage for sexual indiscretions – destroy relationships. (“Celebs strive for recognition then wear dark glasses to avoid it”). Stalking: Fans may become dangerous – may assault or kill their idol. “Kiss & tell” groupies. Stalking: Fans may become dangerous – may assault or kill their idol. “Kiss & tell” groupies. Often short-lived: Loss may be devastating (“Fame measured by how far you bounce when you tumble off the pedestal”). Often short-lived: Loss may be devastating (“Fame measured by how far you bounce when you tumble off the pedestal”). Isolation: Like lottery winners, often “burn bridges”, casting off old friends, family & secure identification (lose their roots). Isolation: Like lottery winners, often “burn bridges”, casting off old friends, family & secure identification (lose their roots).

10 CYCLE OF CELEBRITY Begins with build-up of excitement (press conferences, photo shoots, increased social engagements). Begins with build-up of excitement (press conferences, photo shoots, increased social engagements). Strangers treat you as friends, or the character you have portrayed. People have preconceptions about you they are seeking to confirm. Strangers treat you as friends, or the character you have portrayed. People have preconceptions about you they are seeking to confirm. Personal space increasingly invaded – reluctance to appear in public. Personal space increasingly invaded – reluctance to appear in public. Fish-bowl effect. Private life scrutinised (George Michael, Hugh Grant). Distorted accounts appear in media. Fish-bowl effect. Private life scrutinised (George Michael, Hugh Grant). Distorted accounts appear in media. Feelings of isolation – those around are sycophants, not trusted as real friends and confidants. Old friends & family back off because they can’t keep up or regard you as big-headed. Feelings of isolation – those around are sycophants, not trusted as real friends and confidants. Old friends & family back off because they can’t keep up or regard you as big-headed. Dispersion of the self – people relate to your many replications rather than you. Dispersion of the self – people relate to your many replications rather than you.

11 OBSESSIVE FANS From fanaticus – “one inspired to frenzy by devotion to a deity”. Often religious fervour in way fans pursue their idol. From fanaticus – “one inspired to frenzy by devotion to a deity”. Often religious fervour in way fans pursue their idol. At harmless end – follow around venues, collect autographs, memorabilia, seek brief conversation, start fan clubs. At harmless end – follow around venues, collect autographs, memorabilia, seek brief conversation, start fan clubs. Destructive extremes – imitate clothing & anti-social behaviour, abandon partners, jobs, etc to become “groupies”. May stalk, threaten or become violent if “snubbed”. Destructive extremes – imitate clothing & anti-social behaviour, abandon partners, jobs, etc to become “groupies”. May stalk, threaten or become violent if “snubbed”. Usually loners of low self-esteem., Live vicariously - seeking to partake of glamorous life-style of idol. Often ambivalent – simultaneously admiring & envying them. Usually loners of low self-esteem., Live vicariously - seeking to partake of glamorous life-style of idol. Often ambivalent – simultaneously admiring & envying them. Danger signs in inappropriate letters are (a)references to times & places of proposed encounters and (b)attempts to conceal identity (Dietz et al 1991). Danger signs in inappropriate letters are (a)references to times & places of proposed encounters and (b)attempts to conceal identity (Dietz et al 1991).

12 SLIDE TOWARD SELF-ABSORPTION Marilyn Monroe always late for shoot. Marilyn Monroe always late for shoot. Val Kilmer said to have banned eye-contact from crew and extras on film-set. Val Kilmer said to have banned eye-contact from crew and extras on film-set. Elton John phoned hotel reception demanding they “stop the wind”. Elton John phoned hotel reception demanding they “stop the wind”. Do they begin that way or grow into inflated self- importance? Probably a combination of natural arrogance and “spoilt brat” syndrome. Do they begin that way or grow into inflated self- importance? Probably a combination of natural arrogance and “spoilt brat” syndrome. Said that celebrities have “big heads but fragile egos”. Partly believe their own publicity, partly feel as though they are frauds (imposter phenomenon). Said that celebrities have “big heads but fragile egos”. Partly believe their own publicity, partly feel as though they are frauds (imposter phenomenon).

13 NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER? Parallels observed between stars obsessed with publicity/power and NPD: Parallels observed between stars obsessed with publicity/power and NPD: Manipulative in milking others for attention. Manipulative in milking others for attention. Vindictive to those thought to have obstructed, humiliated them or withheld proper adulation. Vindictive to those thought to have obstructed, humiliated them or withheld proper adulation. Superficially boastful and bigheaded but basically insecure. Superficially boastful and bigheaded but basically insecure. Engage in outlandish/self-destructive behaviour in increasing bid to wrench attention from “neglectful” public. Engage in outlandish/self-destructive behaviour in increasing bid to wrench attention from “neglectful” public. Need reactions of others to affirm own existence (“People are noticing me – therefore I am”). Need reactions of others to affirm own existence (“People are noticing me – therefore I am”).

14 PLANET DIVA Young & Pinsky (USC, 2006) gave Narcissism Personality Inventory to 200 Hollywood celebs appearing on a syndicated radio show. Young & Pinsky (USC, 2006) gave Narcissism Personality Inventory to 200 Hollywood celebs appearing on a syndicated radio show. Actors, comedians, musicians & reality TV contestants most narcissistic. Actors, comedians, musicians & reality TV contestants most narcissistic. Females esp. high on exhibitionism, manipulativeness and vanity. Females esp. high on exhibitionism, manipulativeness and vanity. Those with least real-life skills were most desperately attention-seeking (c.f. David Brent, Miss Piggy). Those with least real-life skills were most desperately attention-seeking (c.f. David Brent, Miss Piggy). New-type celebs (“famous for being famous”) are pressured to behave outrageously to maintain attention. New-type celebs (“famous for being famous”) are pressured to behave outrageously to maintain attention.

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16 DRUG DEPENDENCY Drugs easily affordable and readily available in circles in which they move/party (esp. cocaine). Drugs easily affordable and readily available in circles in which they move/party (esp. cocaine). Alcohol problems – 26% of famous people vs 14% general population. Alcohol problems – 26% of famous people vs 14% general population. Belief that drugs assist creativity and energy, help one “sparkle”, or needed to stay awake. Belief that drugs assist creativity and energy, help one “sparkle”, or needed to stay awake. Alternative theories – replace “high” of performance; attempt to combat chronic self-awareness, “goodtime oblivion”, stress reduction, weight control, pain avoidance. Alternative theories – replace “high” of performance; attempt to combat chronic self-awareness, “goodtime oblivion”, stress reduction, weight control, pain avoidance. Begin as recreational or self-treatment but lead to downward spiral of addiction and attempts at rehabilitation (Betty Ford Clinic, Priory Clinic). Begin as recreational or self-treatment but lead to downward spiral of addiction and attempts at rehabilitation (Betty Ford Clinic, Priory Clinic). List of victims include actors (Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Robert Downey) and pop singers (Janis Joplin, Michael Hutchence, Amy Winehouse). List of victims include actors (Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Robert Downey) and pop singers (Janis Joplin, Michael Hutchence, Amy Winehouse).

17 SUICIDE & PREMATURE DEATH Bellis et al (2007) epidemiologists at Liverpool John Moores U. found young death among pop/rock musicians 3x higher than expectation in first 5yrs of fame. Bellis et al (2007) epidemiologists at Liverpool John Moores U. found young death among pop/rock musicians 3x higher than expectation in first 5yrs of fame. Suicide rate for celebs in general about 4x average (4.4% vs 1% for non-famous people). Suicide rate for celebs in general about 4x average (4.4% vs 1% for non-famous people). Suggestion that depression may be a particular risk among comedians (Tony Hancock, Kenneth Williams). Suggestion that depression may be a particular risk among comedians (Tony Hancock, Kenneth Williams). Early death and suicide often drink or drug-related (e.g. Alan Ladd, River Phoenix, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain). Early death and suicide often drink or drug-related (e.g. Alan Ladd, River Phoenix, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain). May be final exhibitionistic gesture consistent with histrionic personality (e.g. Peg Entwhistle – failed starlet who jumped off the big “H” of the Hollywood sign). May be final exhibitionistic gesture consistent with histrionic personality (e.g. Peg Entwhistle – failed starlet who jumped off the big “H” of the Hollywood sign).

18 DIVORCE Also rife among famous. Also rife among famous. Individuals at a premium, have “resale” value, and targeted by others. Individuals at a premium, have “resale” value, and targeted by others. Jockeying for social advantage – remarriage used to enhance profile? Jockeying for social advantage – remarriage used to enhance profile? Lack of taboo against divorce – may even have publicity value (Burton & Taylor x2). Lack of taboo against divorce – may even have publicity value (Burton & Taylor x2). Difficult to conceal affairs under media spotlight. Difficult to conceal affairs under media spotlight. Conflicting careers & egos – often difficult to live with: (Rita Haworth re. Orson Welles: “When he woke in the morning he expected me to applaud”). Conflicting careers & egos – often difficult to live with: (Rita Haworth re. Orson Welles: “When he woke in the morning he expected me to applaud”).

19 BURNOUT Physical and emotional exhaustion leading to progressive inhibition against performing previously successful routines. Physical and emotional exhaustion leading to progressive inhibition against performing previously successful routines. Common among athletes and sports stars where there is intense performance pressure and competition from up and coming younger people. Common among athletes and sports stars where there is intense performance pressure and competition from up and coming younger people. May occur at any age but typically 30s and 40s. May occur at any age but typically 30s and 40s. Loss of pleasure/passion leads to withdrawal, self- sabotage and drop-out. Loss of pleasure/passion leads to withdrawal, self- sabotage and drop-out. May be masked by alcohol & drugs. May be masked by alcohol & drugs. Treatment requires guidance in establishing new priorities, pacing workload, avoiding stress and rediscovering variety and creativity. Treatment requires guidance in establishing new priorities, pacing workload, avoiding stress and rediscovering variety and creativity.

20 SURVIVING FAME Need to learn to fail safe – like learning how to fall in Judo, or righting a capsized dinghy. Need to learn to fail safe – like learning how to fall in Judo, or righting a capsized dinghy. Ups & downs in career are inevitable – strategy needed for coping with failure (positive attitude to setbacks). Ups & downs in career are inevitable – strategy needed for coping with failure (positive attitude to setbacks). Bad performance or being rejected is not a tragedy – needs focus on the incident rather than globalising (“Saturday was a bad night”, not “I’ll never be able to appear on stage again”). Bad performance or being rejected is not a tragedy – needs focus on the incident rather than globalising (“Saturday was a bad night”, not “I’ll never be able to appear on stage again”). Failure may even prompt creative new directions (Tommy Cooper). Failure may even prompt creative new directions (Tommy Cooper).

21 KEEPING FEET ON THE GROUND Important not to let life changes become overwhelming (too many at once = stress). Important not to let life changes become overwhelming (too many at once = stress). Change inevitable as fame acquired but need to stagger rate and scale to avoid disorientation. Change inevitable as fame acquired but need to stagger rate and scale to avoid disorientation. Choose advisors (managers, lawyers, accountants, etc) carefully. Understand and do as much as possible yourself. Choose advisors (managers, lawyers, accountants, etc) carefully. Understand and do as much as possible yourself. Fame is a commodity – need to be aware that others always looking for a slice of the action. Fame is a commodity – need to be aware that others always looking for a slice of the action. Maintain love of close friends and family. Maintain love of close friends and family.

22 BE REALISTIC Recognise that media will discover (or invent) things about you (cultivate a thick skin). Recognise that media will discover (or invent) things about you (cultivate a thick skin). Develop other interests (e.g. relax with sports & hobbies). Develop other interests (e.g. relax with sports & hobbies). Have a “Plan B” for dealing with life after fame (e.g. property investment, restaurants, winery, record company, politics). Have a “Plan B” for dealing with life after fame (e.g. property investment, restaurants, winery, record company, politics). May need to shift focus within profession (e.g. acting to directing) May need to shift focus within profession (e.g. acting to directing) Be prepared to give up gracefully (c.f. Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard). Be prepared to give up gracefully (c.f. Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard). Guard against over-inflated ego – be aware that bubble may one day burst. Guard against over-inflated ego – be aware that bubble may one day burst.

23 REWARDS OF FAME Satisfies inborn need for attention (social outcasts have poor survival). Satisfies inborn need for attention (social outcasts have poor survival). Brings massive financial rewards. Brings massive financial rewards. Makes one sexually attractive. Makes one sexually attractive. May be a form of immortality – Giles (2000) replication of image is next best thing to replicating DNA. (“I want to live forever”) May be a form of immortality – Giles (2000) replication of image is next best thing to replicating DNA. (“I want to live forever”) Dumbing down of media (e.g. reality TV) means fame can be aspired to by all. Celebrity = famous for being famous. Dumbing down of media (e.g. reality TV) means fame can be aspired to by all. Celebrity = famous for being famous.

24 BIBLIOGRAPHY Evans, A. & Wilson, G.D. Fame: The Psychology of Stardom. (Vision, 1999). Evans, A. & Wilson, G.D. Fame: The Psychology of Stardom. (Vision, 1999). Wilson, G D. Psychology for Performing Artists, Second Edition (Wiley, 2002). Wilson, G D. Psychology for Performing Artists, Second Edition (Wiley, 2002). Giles, D. Illusions of Immortality. (Macmillan 2000). Giles, D. Illusions of Immortality. (Macmillan 2000).


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