- For the 1998 movie, see Celebrity (1998 movie).
A celebrity is a person who is widely recognized in a society. Fame is one prerequisite for celebrity status, but not always sufficient. For example, as "infamy" has passed out of common English usage, high-profile criminals may be considered to be famous, but they are not always celebrities. Traditionally, politicians are rarely described as celebrities, but in the era of television, some have had to become de facto celebrities. Today's celebrities are largely figures from television and movies.
Defining the concept of "celebrity" is difficult. Fame, usually connected to an accomplishment or wealth, is generally considered to be a prerequisite. The Roman definition, as Bossuet remarked to the Academie Francaise in 1671, consisted in doing actions worthy of being written, or of writing worthy of being read . Sociologically, celebrity is synonymous with "highly visible upper class", though an upper-level income is not strictly necessary for celebrity.
Celebrity is not unique to modern societies; royal families, the nobility, popular preachers, and other religious leaders were the celebrities of pre-industrial societies. Additionally, mythical or literary figures such as Perseus, Roland, and Hamlet played the roles of the celebrity.
More people who previously would not have become celebrities are now having the chance for celebrity through reality TV.
Rise of celebrity cultureEdit
The modern mass media has increased the exposure and power of celebrity. Often, celebrity carries with it immense social capital that is highly sought-after by some individuals. High-paying jobs and other social perks unavailable to most people are readily available to celebrities, even for work not connected to the talents or accomplishments that made them famous. For example, a retired athlete might receive high "speaking fees", or compensation for public appearances, despite his talent having been sports, not oratory.
While some envy celebrities, and many aspire to celebrity, some who have attained it are ambivalent about their status. Often, celebrities cannot escape the public eye, and risk being followed by fans or paparazzi. As well, child celebrities are notorious for having poor emotional health in adulthood, and often turn to drug and alcohol abuse when their celebrity (as it usually does) fades.
Some participants in reality television shows have admitted that they appeared on these programs with the goal in mind of attaining celebrity. Most often, they achieve only "fleeting celebrity" with no social or economic value.
Only a small proportion of individuals in any profession can achieve celebrity. For those who do, the benefits can be substantial-- in the form of speaking fees, book advances, and high-paying "consulting" jobs from firms seeking access. There are disdavantages as well, however, academics and business leaders who become well known often lose credibility with their colleagues.
In many fields, such as the arts and publishing, a moderate measure of celebrity (being "established") is necessary before individuals are able to "get respect". Most non-famous individuals in these sectors are poorly-compensated, though they may be as talented or more so than well-compensated, famous people in the same field.
Each nation has its own independent celebrity system, and individuals who are extremely well known in India, might be unknown in Britain, for instance. Some subnational entities also have their own celebrity system, such as Quebec and Puerto Rico. In other cases, particularly in the United States, celebrity may be confined to only one state: Lin Sue Cooney, for example, is a well known television reporter in Arizona, but she is not that well known in other areas.
Because celebrities have fame comparable to that of royalty or gods in the past, some people exhibit curiosity about their private affairs. Due to the high visibility of celebrities' personal lives, their failures are often made public. Therefore, "celebrities" are usually viewed as exhibiting worse personal behavior and having worse moral values than most people. Whether this is true or not is questionable, because the exact meaning of the word "celebrity" is difficult to define, not all celebrities exhibit bad behaviour, and, sometimes, the acts that a celebrity does reflect social trends that non-celebrities might also do.
Some have argued that the notion of celebrity is self-reinforcing and ultimately vacuous: some celebrities are not famous for their accomplishments, but merely famous for their fame and presumed fortune. For example, Paris Hilton would not be a public figure without her wealth, but her family's prominence has created and reinforces her fame. Hilton is in some senses a special case; she is famous at least in part for being an example of the perceived negative or shallow aspects of celebrity life, and some believe she is going out of her way to fill that role and gather further attention.
Professions that can confer celebrityEdit
Some professions, by the nature of being high-paid and difficult to get into, automatically confer celebrity. For example, movie stars and television actors are almost invariantly celebrities. High-ranking politicians, television reporters, television show hosts and major-league athletes are also celebrities.
Some film and theatre directors, producers, artists, musicians, authors, lawyers and journalists are celebrities, but the vast majority are not. Some people in these professions strive to avoid celebrity, while others seek it. Any person who is able to get his or her television show will usually become a celebrity: this includes chefs, gardeners, and interior decorators on shows like Trading Spaces and While You Were Out.
Individuals can achieve celebrity, but there are also many celebrity families, such as the Barrymore, Cassidy (David and Shaun Cassidy), the Osmonds, Osbournes, Quintanilla, Sheen/Estevez, Stiller, Jacksons and Baldwin families, as well as the Bushes, Clintons, and Kennedys and some sports families.
High Visibility, by Irving J. Rein, Philip Kotler, and Martin Stoller, studies the phenomenon of celebrity. To them, celebrity requires not only fame, but fame with an evident monetary value.