02/09/07 — Celebrity shame: Our obsession with glitz should be examined closely

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Celebrity shame: Our obsession with glitz should be examined closely

We treat celebrities like they are deities.

We hang on their words — even when they do not really have any expertise in the subject area. We pay big money for news about their personal lives.

We lavish them with attention and are quick to judge when we see a flaw.

We forget, sometimes, that they are just people who suffer some of the same foibles as the rest of us.

We also forget that they have tragedies and demons of their own.

And when we are finished with them, we are equally as brutal — discarding their influence as quickly as we picked it up and moving on to another false idol.

Modern society’s obsession with celebrity is one sign that our priorities need a little shifting. True heroes these days do not necessarily get attention. We do not remember their names or their stories as readily as we know the nickname of the latest pop star or the most recent scandal involving a Hollywood heartthrob.

We don’t even know half of the people who are right now making discoveries and performing good deeds that could change lives.

We reserve that attention for those who truly do not deserve the accolades.

We forget too often that the real lessons to be learned about life can be found closer to home — and in the lives of the ordinary Americans who do extraordinary things.

That is our shame.

So, Thursday’s news that controversial TV personality Anna Nicole Smith died at the age of 39 had the same sordid tone that you might expect — and received the same amount of attention.

This is a tragic story of a young woman who has been through the ups and downs of fame and fortune. She has lost much in her life, most notably her teenage son.

She has been in the news for her excesses, her kindnesses and her efforts to stay in the public eye.

And in the end, she died not as an icon, but as a woman tortured by something and who needed somewhere to turn to overcome the sadness in her life.

She should be remembered not for her celebrity, but as a woman who was trying to find her way. She should be remembered as a person, not as an oddity.

And her story should be make us all a little sad.

As we think about her death, we should take the time to think about the cost of fame — and our own role in creating it.

Published in Editorials on February 9, 2007 12:46 PM