Supermodels, Actors, and Influencers: The Incessant Cult for Popular Standards


Supermodels, Actors, and Influencers: The Incessant Cult for Popular Standards

“You have a confluence of forces coming together in technology and the media to make it happen and it is worldwide and it is multiplying like lice” says an emeritus professor of media psychology Stuart Fischoff. Social media, print media, and visual media has boomed within this decade since the smartphone was forged.  “Having a computer in the palm of our hands has given us access to each other’s lives – and an insight into our own lives” (BBC). These platforms for communication does not only popularize the content but reveals the personal or professional lives of its host  which creates an affinity among the spectators towards the star system. This influence of celebrity culture can be better understood with the term “Celebrity Worship Syndrome” which is an “obsessive addictive disorder in which a person becomes overly involved with the details of a celebrity‘s personal and professional life”(Wikipedia). Celebrity worship can be conceptualized and being both pathological and non-pathological based on the dynamics of impact.

            The rise of star system is an obvious spectacle. If one can look around the top masala gossips about the lives of actors is not merely a prominent subject among common people but also among the news channel reporters. This can be categorized as the lower level of celebrity worship which includes only watching and reading about celebrities. Until recently, a time where the smartphones where yet to become full fledged as of now, children used to carry a fan book to school for showcasing the photographs of their own suitable actors nicely pasted on the crisp pages of a book, and in hope to collect more from the library magazines or from their peers. However, the obsession now replaced in relentlessly watching every v-log of a particular you-tuber, stalking a person in social media, creating a “fan club” and all are mild attachments, can be termed as mere entertainments, but supposedly researchers have signified that the subjects might develop a tendency to alienate themselves from the peer group and create fewer friendship than they used to before becoming a fan.

            Celebrity worship syndrome can lead to certain consumer behaviour manifestations of unhealthy tendencies such as materialism and compulsive buying. The change in roles of influencers can be traced back to medieval England, where the blacksmith who forged the sword for the King and his court were able to charge more money because everybody wanted to wield the same steel as the king. Similar would be the case with the brand ambassador which developed in the 1800s for companies like Cadbrury, Jack Daniels, Colgate and Coco-Cola. Arguably, this can be the origin of exploitation of the consumers for they are found to be captivated under the deceptive glitter sprinkled unto their eyes by their dear followers. The 2015 Tamil romantic thriller movie “I”, directed by S. Shankar has depicted this despotic obsession were Lingesan (protagonist), who’s a fan of  Diya, the supermodel, goes onto buy sanitary napkins, nighty, and loungerie which she has advertised. Surely, Diya can be an archetype of the brand ambassadors which now- the movie stars, social media influencers, athletes, and any of those whom public regard as high value promotes the product, which  can only benefit the brand and influencer but not the customer.

            The activists, knowingly or unknowingly interpellates the consciousness of followers and drive them incessantly to the popular cult of standards, which often are seeped with bourgeois capitalistic standards which the ordinary folk might not be able to confirm to. Not infamous obsession of Indian cinema with fair skin have long been an ally, the assertion of accepting beyond caste, creed, and colour, can undoubtedly be debated still. Most of the actors, producers, directors go queer in their interviews but the casting of their productions will include only those zero-figured heroin with a chubby friend or a rival of big, fat, dark toned stature. And the big heroes of  Bollywood would be a Hindu and the depiction of Muslims would be very limited or be with full of cliches. Viewers are subjected to promote these beauty notions and supposed cultural standards.

            The pathological level of Celebrity worship syndrome can be termed as ‘erotomania’ which would result due to psychological disorders like- schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. “Individuals who have erotomania tend to believe that the celebrity with whom they are obsessed with is utilizing the media as a way to communicate with them by sending special messages or signals”. The severe level of celebrity worship is “borderline-pathological”, whose characteristic comprise the “willingness to commit crime on behalf of the celebrity who is the object of worship, or to spend money on common items used by the celebrity at some point, such as napkins”. An article on USA Today addresses about the ‘stan’ culture which reveals the massive power of actors over the minds of its disciples. The article is speculative of k-pop being one among those held responsible for inflating the expected turnout of Trump’s rally, “ fans of Gaga ran Sheeran off Twitter because he had said some things they took to be disrespectful to their queen”, “anyone who talks negatively about Taylor Swift can expect to get skewered by her Swifties”. This psychological disorder is addressed in the Bollywood film “Fan” in 2016 by Maneesh Sharma. Where Shahrukh Khan plays both the character of Gaurav(fan) and Aryan(actor) in which Gaurav beats a fellow character who expressed harsh sentiments about Aryan to the press and makes a video and uploads it unto internet as a mark for his tribute.

            Schmid, however believes that stan culture should not be demolished instead a healthy fan culture would be of use. He says “Without our need to talk about the things we love (and hate) what would there be on many of these platforms? So, stanning can give meaning to our lives that we don’t derive from the obligations we have to meet”. Channeling our urges and a will to not become servile intellectuals.

Shabnam is now pursuing her master's in SH College Thevara for English Literature. Hailing from Minicoy, Lakshadweep, she is a bibliophile and a budding forger of words.

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