The long wait is over and over the past twelve months we have been thriving on a digital diet of politics sporting features and current affairs topped up with endless doses of reality television. The celebrities have been assessed by the psychologists have arrived in Australia and now beginning to assess each others “personalities” in the five star luxury Versace hotel. We gasp at the phenomenal fees paid to many of them and feel they are a complete waste of money. But what is it that attracts us to celebrities? This concept of Celebrity has begun to become an inherent part of our lives and persona identities s children teenagers and even adults. Most of them are young wannabees who rely on physical attributes or on “fame” as they are not particularly knowledgable or highly skilled except and a flourish of relationship startup and breakdown which increases media exposure and elevates their status further as they change celeb partners. Celebs we see and become psychologically attached to are simply known for being known, and nothing more. Many psychological research studies have found that the study of celebrity and fame has three main factors. First there is an inherent interest in their personality characteristics that distinguish eminent people with significant skills looks or intelligence from the general population. Secondly, they can influence political voting as we have seen a few days ago when Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce appeared at Hilary Clintons side to boost her status as the next USA President. Third is the psychological consequences of achieving fame as seen in last years Queen of the Jungle Vicky Pattison and earlier on Tracy Solomon who has found Joe Swash. Celebs dating other celebs often engage like celebrity footballers with highly attractive models and exquisite homes in various countries… for simply kicking ball around a pitch or simply being a sports commentator. What makes the content of the sports commentary so unique compared to lesser mortals in a sports commentary? They are all words word words. Fame also can lead to chronic self consciousness and self destructive behaviourin many well known and famous celebrities. Many experience profound loneliness as partners are working in other countries on film sets and the partner left to care for the children and gain support of her family. The loss of privacy is the worst possible scenario. In addition we have the influence celebrities have on their fans. As we tune in on Sunday evening to ITV we become focused on our own celeb and his or her social behaviour and interactions with fellow campmates. You and your friends may be the celebrity worshippers , however this is what we psychologists call “parasocial interaction” which means that while we know so much about their lives, they know probably nothing about yours.
Celebrities are a self-selected group of narcissists. Whereas it is certainly true that some individuals decide to pursue acting or singing careers for the pure love of the artistic forms in question, the great majority of celebrity wannabes are largely driven by the outcomes (e.g., fame, money, adulation). A recent study by S. Mark Young and Drew Pinsky supports the contention that celebrities are narcissists. The extraordinary attention that is lavished on celebrities (not to mention the outlandish sums of money) makes it easy to succumb to one’s hype. People line up for hours to get a glimpse of Simon Cowell coming out of his limousine, and will scream with visceral religious fervour at his mere sight. Take a narcissist, and feed his or her ego in such a manner twenty-four hours a day, and it is not difficult to guess that Simon or David Band Victoria Beckham starts to actually believe that they are superheros (rather than playing one in the movies). Many of these celebs in the Big Brother House and those in the Australian Jungle , may feel a sense of guilt about their actual celebrity role in these well known annual shows of reality television. I propose a similar mechanism to explain celebrities’ “interventions” in making a better world. I believe that they suffer from a form of existential guilt. They know in the deep recesses of their minds that they are not deserving of the accolades and privileged lives that they lead. One of the ways by which they can assuage this persistent guilt is to demonstrate to the world that they are much more than a “mere celebrity.” Some of you might have noticed a possible contradiction here: If celebrities are narcissists why would they experience existential guilt? I think that such celebrities are perhaps slightly less narcissistic and hence maintain some elements of self-insight.
However, those who produce reality TV shows like “I’m a Celebrity “ have to deal with the rights and regulations of the contestants who volunteer to go out to the jungle. Producers have to get the “mix” right between exposing well known Celebrities to oppression, isolation, food deprivation, fear and much more. Questions are raised year after year about the ethics of permitting the campmates to engage in high risk behaviour , even though rigorous risk assessments are carried out and double checked daily. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 5) states that “ No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. There is the issue of facilitating and making mandatory, campmates who have fears of spiders snakes rats and crocodiles to engage in the Bushtucker trials to win meals for their team. We have to admire the producers on the other hand for providing you the audience with light entertainment and balancing the risks of exposure within the permitted regulations. The structure of reward and punishment is common to all reality TV shows but we must not lose sight that it is a gameshow at the end of the day. Participants in the jungle ought never to be made feel physiologically or psychologically worse as a result of their engagement with the Bushhtucker trials and general living arrangements. We think of the separation from family and friends and the audience reaction if we form the wrong relationship with certain campmates. All participants following assessment will have read and signed their agreed contracts but also an informed consent form. They must know all risks they wlil knowingly and willingly undertake and also on completion of the show be fully debriefed and returned to the same state of psychological and physiological health.