Why women have such an intimate connection with celebrities
After all of the Academy Awards hoopla, you might be asking yourself, "why on earth should I care about the Oscars?"
And, truthfully, why would you care that Julianne Moore won Best Actress? It doesn't affect your life, of course, but we watch. Women watch. The Academy Awards aren't called "the Super Bowl for women" for nothing.
A recent Pew study confirmed what we all know: Women make all the social decisions at home, calling the shots as to which movies the family will be going to, which DVDs your sig other will buy or simply what movie you and your boyfriend will stream tonight.
Most of those decisions will be based on which celebrity sold you their film best or which ones you feel an intimate connection with. There is a concept in social psychology called "the illusion of intimacy" which states that the celebrities we like, the ones we are most interested in and the ones we tend to learn most about are the ones with whom we feel most connected. When we choose to like a celebrity we seek out further information about them either online, in magazines or simply by watching them on a talk show, for example. This creates the illusion that we know them well, since they are all too willing to share their most intimate secrets with us, or at a minimum, if they are talented, open up emotionally on screen. All of that sharing and all of our watching in almost a voyeuristic way causes us to feel a very real and very intimate connection with them. So, we do actually care if Julianne Moore wins an Oscar. And we like her even better for bringing attention to Alzheimer's, just as much as we like that Eddie Redmayne talked about ALS. Celebrities understand that their connection to the world can be important and influential.
Combine that idea with how our culture elevates celebrities; therefore, celebrities matter. They just do. You can fight it all you want to and you can say that they're "vapid," "powerless," "meaningless nobodies" who we should not admire and who don't change our world, but that continues to be far from the truth.
You may even see people on Twitter, for example, get angry, and I mean angry, when a news outlet follows a celebrity item too closely and doesn't make enough out of a story they consider "more important." But it's unfair to dismiss the concept of "celebrity" especially when there are many who do good things with their power and change the world (or try to). Those are the ones who are admired the world over for their humanitarian efforts.
If this doesn't ring true then you probably haven't seen the YOUGOV 2015 World's Most Admired list.
YOUGOV surveyed 25,000 people in 23 countries and found that Angelina Jolie is the most admired woman in the world. Hands down. She was chosen, repeatedly, over German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
When they broke it down by country, Angelina was on every single country's list, either at number one or in the top five, except in Sweden. They don't care for Angie in Sweden; she didn't make their list at all. They voted 17-year-old Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai as their most admired woman. Her activism for female education made more of an impact on the Swedes than Angie's UNICEF work, double mastectomy and raising awareness about breast cancer's BRCA gene. There's just no impressing some people.
The fact that when asked the open-ended question, "Who do you admire most?" those surveyed — who could have said absolutely anyone at all — came up with the name of an actor or celebrity again and again. Why do we feel so connected to celebrities and admire them so?
As an expert on celebrity culture, I would say that there are several reasons. For one thing, it's the relentless amount of information we have about them. Studies show that there are more celebrities than "real people" on our radar, and furthermore we know more about our favorite actor than we do our favorite neighbor.
Second, and maybe even more importantly, celebrities through social media and reality television allow us access to them directly. Have you ever tweeted at a star and had them tweet you back? Many have. Stars can now talk directly to us and not through a publicist. And they do so when they have nothing to say or when they have something important to say.
I would also argue that a likeable celebrity who has maintained a positive relationship with fans and holds the trust of the public could be equally as admirable and equally as powerful as any politician or philanthropist. Look at Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech at the Oscars and the media attention it brought when she said, "It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America."
Our attachment to celebrities like Arquette and even George Clooney could possibly go beyond talent and looks extending to messages of hope and change. They are willing to do for the world what we only wish we could. Clooney is certainly one who puts actions behind his words. He has helped so many in Darfur and Sudan.
So, the next time an awards show asks for "the envelope, please" that name inside may be just a little more powerful, and a little more influential in changing the world. And that is a good person to admire.