For most of us, the word ‘idol’ is a matter of historical times – in rich countries, who would consider inanimate statues and animals as divinities today? However, idolatry is very much alive in the so-called First World. A particular recent variety of idolatry has a worthy name – the Celebrity Worship Syndrome.
The term obviously refers to the constant concern with fashion icons, singers of legendary status, and even Hollywood actors. Come to think of it, it might also cover political figures. We strive to follow trends, read their every tweet, quote them, and even excuse the particular celebrity indiscretions.
What starts out as innocent admiration and attachment of sorts, sometimes snowballs out of control into full-blown adoration. As in all religions, extremists exist in Fanworld, too. Whilst this phenomenon has been around for quite a while (Elvis, The Beatles and Nirvana all enjoyed such attention), the actions of obsessive fans seem to have morphed into something crazy over the last decade.
I’ve read of One Direction fans who hid in bins outside a stadium and more recently, of girls camping outside the Hammersmith Apollo for six days just to see Harry Styles on his first solo tour. A fan of Jessie J broke her leg to be just like her, and transgender Catrina Best made headlines in 2012 for wanting to undergo sex-change surgery and become a Harry Styles look-alike. Ricky Martin once found a fan in the ventilation system of the hotel room where he was staying. I will never forget watching an episode of The Graham Norton Show during which the Irish presenter skyped a fan of Robbie Williams who, as he’d got to know, had the singer’s signature tattooed on her butt-cheek.
Closer to home, my old mobile phone number was the birth date of my favourite actor. The ringtone of my phone was from a song that he sings in a film, whilst the wallpaper was a photo of the same actor’s signature. Why? I was plainly an obsessed fan.
Now what exactly is it that turns us into such robots that we just must live our days in dreams? After all, few of us ever get to meet our idol, and if we do, he/she is NOT as intent on marrying us at some point in this lifetime as we are on them!
This reminds me very much of Dante Alighieri and his muse Beatrice. Despite putting her on a pedestal and making her the guide to Heaven in his epic poem, The Divine Comedy, he apparently always kept a respectable distance from the girl in real life. Why? Because he knew the way to break the spell of adoration was to get to know a person for real, whereupon the image of perfection and therefore god-like status would be shattered forever.