O Season of Idols! – UPDATED

My Tuesday column is up over at First Things, and it’s pondering the recent Golden Globes show and the season of glittery “awards” that is upon us:

It was never so rare, or harmless. And as our post-modern society becomes increasingly post-faith, our instincts to raise up entertainers as idols become more frequently indulged, and perhaps we manufacture more of these idols now. Is there a nation that does not have a slew of “Idol-creating” television shows, where celebrity magazines don’t cover the newsstands? Even our “serious” newspapers carry pages of social or celebrity profiles.

We’ve become such a voyeuristic society, so keen to watch others and feel “involved” in their distant lives. It strikes me as odd, that’s all. Whenever I recall the national hysteria that accompanied Bristol Palin’s appearance on Dancing With the Stars, and how seriously that was taken by so many (with some shooting their tv’s and fretting that she might actually win the thing, and others suspecting that every busy phone line was a conspiracy to defeat her) I worry about how nutty we can become about our favorite “stars.”

Hey, I’m not immune. Longtime readers can easily recall my fixation a while back on giant Welsh opera singers! But I do take a minute in the column to caution against treating idols like Icons:

An Icon looks out from an Intrinsic light and points to its Source; there are no shadows in which to hide. An idol looks out from man-created light, and points to no one but himself; then walks into the shadows.

An Icon looks you straight in the eye and invites you to pursue truth. An idol wears shades and has his spokesperson tell you what you want to hear.

An Icon teaches you how to focus; how to quiet down, collect oneself and hear the small, still voice. An idol throws noise, images, and issues at you, non-stop—scatters your thinking and deafens you to any voice but his.

You can read it all here.

Icon available from Holy Transfiguration Monastery

UPDATE: Reader Sarah sends along this piece and notes that idols don’t like not being idolized

UPDATE II: The Legacy of Larry King and Oprah

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • CV

    I always enjoy the red carpet/fashion critique part of awards shows (maybe it has something to do with the bleak weather here in the northeastern US :-) and this year I saw much of the Globes ceremony itself.

    I thought Gervais, whose work I have enjoyed in the past (British original of The Office and HBO’s Extras), was utterly nasty and worse– unfunny. Robert Downey Jr. was right.

    I agree that it was an audience of “idols,” but..they are also human beings. And there was something particularly distasteful about Gervais, who participates in and has realized huge financial benefits from the same entertainment/publicity machine, skewering his own colleagues.

    Is it just me or does it seem like a high percentage of these “high profile” atheists like Gervais, Bill Mahrer, etc. just downright mean?

    Blech. Just sick of it. And the Examiner article which “salutes” Gervais is just as bad, IMHO.

  • CV

    I meant the Mail Online article (not the Examiner), linked above.

  • Susan

    Thanks for the update from reader Sarah. I had no clue about what happened at the Golden Globes.

    Gervais reminded me of Don Rickles at the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts (1973-1984). With that in mind, I found the situation quite funny = Golden Globes Meets Hollywood Roast. The Hollywood crowd thought they were going to a Toast, but the American public was treated to a Roast. :)

    Truly, you hit the nail on the head with your observation that “idols don’t like not being idolized.” Many of the actors seemed to have either lost their funny bone or have gotten used to taking themselves waaaay too seriously.

  • Lifelong Lutheran

    In ’97 I entered a self-imposed fast on most pop culture, especially television, and have never regretted the choice. By now I don’t recognize 90% of the faces and names that appear in the ubiquitous news bits on my internet home page—only the oldsters who were stars when I was in college (I graduated high school in ’81.)

    It is remarkably freeing not to watch, not to listen, not to care about these people. Nor do I feel the slightest deprivation. In fact, my life is infinitely richer for it.

  • Ellen

    I too have been in a years long fast from most pop culture. It’s not a total fast since I do read about what happened and I know the names of the celebs, but I no longer watch most television shows and I go to about 3 movies a year. It’s actually quite refreshing not to have to get all het up about who’s who and what’s in or out.

    Speaking of movies, if you have not seen The King’s Speech do go. It’s excellent all around. The day I went, the theater was packed.

  • David Elton

    I will repeat what I said about the Oscars: A pagan festival where the gods and goddesses of Hollywood gather to worship each other, and be worshipped by the peasantry.


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