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Photo Essay: Boys’ varsity tennis sweeps Archie Williams in MCAL semifinals
Photo Essay: Boys’ varsity tennis sweeps Archie Williams in MCAL semifinals
Molly Gallagher April 18, 2024

On Wednesday, April 17, the boys’ varsity tennis team dominated their match against Archie Williams in the semi-finals of the Marin County...

Photo Essay: Girls’ varsity lacrosse dominates Branson in a sentimental senior day matchup
Photo Essay: Girls’ varsity lacrosse dominates Branson in a sentimental senior day matchup
Emma Rosenberg and Penelope Trott April 18, 2024

On April 18, the girls’ varsity lacrosse team battled against the Branson Bulls in a blowout senior day matchup. Prior to the start of...

 embracing his coach senior Auden Braden celebrates his final MCAL regular season game
Boys’ volleyball dominates Marin Catholic on Senior Night
Richard Byrne April 18, 2024

On April 17th, the boys’ varsity volleyball team faced off against Marin Catholic (MC) in a Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) game. The...

From Admiration to adulation: The dark side of celebrity idolization

“Taylor Swift,” a name that once sounded just like yours or mine, is now placed at the center of Hollywood billboards, newspaper headlines and conversations between people thousands of miles away. The 15th most-followed Instagram account in 2023, it’s now uncommon to encounter someone unfamiliar with the name “Taylor Swift.” However, to know of Swift is not necessarily to be a member of her die-hard fanbase, the “Swifties.” The Swifties are often characterized by knowing word-for-word lyrics to all of Swift’s 243 songs, alongside personal details about the celebrity, from her favorite color to the name of the hospital in which she was born. But this fame comes at a cost. Celebrity idolization can turn from a recognition of talent into an unhealthy obsession, risking celebrity safety, the psychological well-being of fans and potentially facilitating praise and admiration for controversial behavior. 

Although this intense level of admiration may contribute to Swift’s incredible success, being the most listened-to female artist of all time on Spotify, the high-profile celebrity has been subjected to requiring bodyguards and a full-time security team. In January 2024, David Crowe was arrested and charged with two counts of harassment and stalking for loitering outside of Swift’s New York City home. This was Crowe’s second arrest in three days for trying to break into Swift’s property. Crowe is simply one of many offenders arrested for repeatedly stalking Swift. This instance is only one example of celebrity idolization risking celebrity safety. 

In recent media, the name “Gypsy Rose Blanchard” has gained a spotlight. Blanchard’s story began to gain popularity in 2016 after Blanchard murdered her mother following years of intolerable child abuse. After eight years of incarceration, Blanchard’s release in December 2023 attracted the attention of millions, both positively and negatively. Only three weeks post-release, Blanchard has accumulated 9.8 million followers on TikTok and an impressive 8.3 million on her Instagram page. Blanchard’s captivating story and recent media drama have attracted dedicated supporters and admirers, including young children who support Blanchard because of her popularity rather than knowing the truth of her story. Blanchard’s mother was affected by Munchausen by Proxy, a mental disorder classified by feeding off attention drawn in by faking the illness(es) of one’s child. In order to escape this abuse, Blanchard assisted her then-boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn, in brutally murdering her mother. 

Illustration by Ava Stephens

Although Blanchard’s story is alluring, young children developing deep obsessions with and praising Blanchard is not appropriate, as Blanchard’s account is profoundly disturbing and not a safe influence for the developing minds of children. Focusing excessively on Blanchard might inadvertently convey the message to the younger generation that murder can be “justified.” The extensive media coverage surrounding Blanchard could potentially lead children to overlook the gravity of her story and foster an unhealthy admiration for someone who has recently been released from prison. Furthermore, Blanchard’s unbounded fame has been a significant threat to her security. Due to the security threats her popularity has posed, Blanchard was recently demanded by her parole officer to leave her home state of Missouri, where she had been residing post-release.

Celebrity idolizers are not only put in jeopardy by glamorizing harmful influences but celebrity worship has been proven to be associated with the development of psychological issues. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) used the Celebrity Attitudes Scale to measure respondents’ preoccupation with their favorite celebrity. According to the NLM, “Findings generally indicate that higher scores on the Celebrity Attitudes Scale, which indicates a greater preoccupation with a celebrity, are associated with several potential emotional and psychological difficulties.” The research further defined these psychological difficulties as “sensation-seeking, cognitive rigidity, identity diffusion, poor interpersonal boundaries, narcissistic personality features, dissociation, addictive tendencies, criminal tendencies, stalking behavior, compulsive buying, depression, anxiety and general social dysfunction.”

Nonetheless, it is crucial to recognize that celebrities often owe their successful careers to their fanbase. Most celebrities demonstrate appreciation towards their fans, assigning nicknames such as Ariana Grandes’ “Ariananators,” and publicly emphasizing the significance of their fans’ support in shaping their careers. However, it is not love and support from fans that endangers A-list celebrities, requiring them to need full-time bodyguards and security teams. Rather, the danger stems from overly obsessive idolization that includes stalking. 

 In order to prevent these detrimental outcomes, it is essential to maintain awareness of the hazards related to celebrity obsession. This awareness can be demonstrated through media literacy education as an essential class in schools, where susceptible youth can develop conceptual knowledge about how celebrities are marketed and promoted in media. Additionally, implementing media literacy education as a graduation requirement would facilitate a critical analysis of media portrayals and develop healthy consumption habits. Consuming balanced media consumption and setting boundaries on media intake are progressive forms of preventing admiration from turning into adulation.

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About the Contributor
Alana Leifer
Alana Leifer, Copy Editor
Alana Leifer is a junior and a copy editor for the Redwood Bark. She enjoys running, spending time with her friends, and traveling.