Published: Friday, February 7, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 9, 2014 15:02
Just today I found out one of the greatest actors of our time has passed away. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won the Oscar for his uncanny portrayal of the late Truman Capote in Capote in 2005, was found dead in his Manhattan apartment with a needle in his arm. A drug overdose is believed to be the cause of death.
So often in our modern day culture we look at celebrities as god-like figures that have everything anyone could ever want or need. When these public figures suddenly show any sign of cracking under the pressure or appearing to be somewhat human, we as a society pounce and leave nothing left but the scraps of their personal lives. The decay of the celebrity has become an enormous business in America, and one that anyone can see at work at any grocery store or doctor’s office.
I bring up Seymour Hoffman because I see him as our latest great talent lost to the side effects of being an artist in the public eye. This kind of tragedy has become almost expected nowadays; to lose talent to the effects of addiction has become standard. What most people fail to realize is that once celebrities achieve a certain amount of fame, it is rare for them to be around someone who is willing to say “no”. To be a celebrity is to live in a world of “yes”, and nothing else. To live in an environment where your wish is someone else’s command can get very dark, very quickly.
In the entertainment industry, it is safe to say that drugs and alcohol are easy to attain and use, even if you are underage, as is proven by nineteen-year-old Justin Bieber in his multiple incidents this past week. Often these drugs become coping mechanisms to help with the constant spotlight that comes with being in popular film, on hit TV shows, or coming out with number one songs. The struggle to overcome or avoid addiction that many celebrities face almost always plays out in the public eye, in front of millions of people, as they are scrutinized for their every move.
I often catch parents claiming that celebrities should be “role models” and that they are “shaping the next generation”. While I slightly agree with the latter, I highly disagree with the former. It is no one’s responsibility to be a “role model” unless they put that upon themselves. Merely being in the public eye does not make someone have the responsibility to be a “role model”. I have always found this ideology frustrating because it is safe to say that we all make questionable decisions at times in our lives and just because someone is a celebrity does not make them any more obligated to make the “right” decisions. When I first heard that Rihanna was back with Chris Brown, my immediate thoughts were “Oh no! This is not the right message to send to young girls,” which then quickly changed to “Why does this matter to me at all?” The decisions Rihanna makes are hers and only hers to make. Why we think we have some kind of say in these celebrities’ personal life decisions is quite mindboggling if you think about it.
My main question regarding this constant scrutinization of celebrities during their darkest hours is simple: why? Why are we so fascinated by this, and what makes it okay to publicize things that are often extremely personal and at times untrue? I wish that we as a society could have a little more compassion, realizing there are difficulties that come with fame and just how awful it must be to be constantly berated in the press for things that should be kept private.
I hope that maybe we can start to rethink the idea of celebrity in the near future. Maybe we can think of them more as people rather than figures, human beings rather than stars.