Why are we interested in famous people? Why do we love gossip? Society generally dictates that gossip is just a guilty pleasure. Nevertheless gossip accomplishes important social functions. It allows us to make easy, non-threatening connections with strangers in social situations. Gossip can also provide us with information used for the everyday human interaction.
Why celebrities are not heroes and often not respected – but still famous ?
Eckhart Tolle talks about fame in his book A New Earth. He puts it into context of individual and collective ego enhancing behavior. Both the fan and the celebrity are enhancing their sense of self. They are both being selfish for their own reasons. The fan uses the famous person to enhance their sense of self by association and/or by gossiping. Ego’s are attracted to bigger ego’s. Likewise the famous person wants people to acknowledge and boost their own ego, verifying to them what they tell themselves is their identity. It is a process of mind identification which brings this about. The ego, the thinking mind, is comparative. The reason the celebrity is famous is because we compare him/her to other people who might be more or less famous, or not at all famous.
The hidden function of the existence of celebrities would be to secure the consent of ordinary people to the unequal distribution of rewards, in a unfair absence of genuine equality of opportunity. Basically, you accept an unfair, arbitrary system if you think it’s nonetheless fair, almost random. Becoming famous is a question of luck – and you just wish you’ll be one of the lucky fews in the limo. In this scenario there should be a constant renewal of living celebrities – by contrast with a system with more perenial stars, or (dead, mythical) legendary figures : it shows that there is actually room for newcomers, and entertains every body’s dream to get his moment of fame.
But then, if being famous is about being noticed and admired, you must known that you won’t be admired for any quality of yours – but just for being lucky, which anyone could have been.