bebo, britney and the cult of celebrity

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Friday, January 16th, 2009

bebo, britney and the cult of celebrity

in our society, we have a very deep fascination with celebrity. we have tv shows about celebrities. we have “mainstream” news that features stories about celebrities. we celebrate people who are famous for just being famous. we lift celebrities up on godlike pedestals. we all, in big or small ways, at times, drink from the cult of celebrity kool-aid.

at the same time that we lift up celebrities to the highest heights, we love nothing more than to see them come crashing down. when celebrity-x falls off the wagon or has an embarrassing public moment or gets caught on camera in a compromising situation, we all tend to enjoy making that the topic of office conversation or a funny blog post or a joke with friends. i’m as guilty as the next person.

sometimes the word guilty, though, has very little to do with our feelings. part of the prevailing thought is that if these people want to be movie stars and make millions of dollars, that’s part of the price they have to pay. if they want to eat at the finest restaurants or shop at the most upscale boutiques, popular thought suggests, there are certain privacies and aspects of their lives that they must forfeit.
of all the celebrities of which these things are applicable, the #1 person on this list is britney spears. we can all think of a hundred times that we’ve rolled our eyes by something she’s done that’s ended her up on the news or the million times we’ve inserted some ridiculous thing she’s done as the butt of a joke. her shooting star went up so amazingly fast and she quickly became the celebrity we both love and loathe.
while, as i’ve already stated, i can be as guilty as the next person, i have often looked at scenes of britney spears and other celebrities of like kind and had moments of genuine sympathy and sadness. for every few times i’ve joined in with jokes and stated how ridiculous this or that celebrity looks, i’ve also had times when i realize that these people are just humans and how i can’t imagine a life under that sharp of a microscope of scrutiny. having above average talent and making millions of dollars doesn’t deny a person the right to being treated like a human being with feelings and the need for dignity and respect.
with that said…
a few months ago, bebo norman (for those who don’t know him, yes…his name is seriously bebo…) released a new, self-titled album. i’m not a huge fan of bebo norman—or at least like i was about 10 or so years ago. his first major release, ten thousand days, was one of the most beautiful and emotive “christian” albums that came out in the late 90’s (this isn’t my favorite song on the album, but just take a listen to the hammer holds to hear how pure and beautiful it is). since that time, though, much like other artists who’ve gotten sucked into the ccm machine, bebo has tended to put out stuff that was sort of cliché and overproduced and made for radio.
his latest album was briefly released as a free download, so i thought i would give it a shot. by and large, it wasn’t too different from his other albums of late, but there were some good tracks. one that stood out was the inspiration for my thoughts in this post about our obsession with the rise and fall of celebrities. specifically, the obsession with britney spears was explored in his track, aptly titled britney. when i first learned that he wrote a track to britney spears, i thought it was a really corny idea. i thought it would be too literal and play into some clichés. i was wrong, though. the track is thoughtful and very poignant. it’s really a model of how people—especially those who claim to follow christ—should view celebrities and what, ultimately, their thinking should be towards those in the media frenzy spotlight.
so, have a listen for yourself. here’s the track.

bebo norman: britney