I followed this election closely and have been amused how the rise of reality television has influenced the outcome of a presidential election. As a sociology major, one of my favorite courses was studying celebrity and its impact. We learned how the rise of celebrity is directly correlated to the decline of religion in American society. Whereas Americans used to look to their bible for guidance on how to live and interact, today we crave and overemphasize outlandish personalities like the Kardashians who grab headlines and hence, our attention. This is powerful as it discretely changes our frame of mind. When a candidate comes along that’s boisterous and more of an entertainer with no political background, who will we be more likely to pay attention towards? Probably the candidate that closely resembles what we’re used to! We’ve become normalized towards entertainment to the point that we subconsciously desire it in every aspect of our lives. The United States is the entertainment capital of the world. Donald starred in “Celebrity Apprentice” and his whole campaign was littered with entertainment: pussy grabbing, “nasty woman”, referring to Mexican immigrants as rapists, his emphasis on radical Islamic terrorists, referencing the size of his penis, and creating cool nicknames for his foes like Crooked Hillary and Lyin’ Ted, the list goes on.
Celebrity is the American form of public honour, it often involves a narcissist and consequentially celebrity worshipping. You could argue that Jesus was one of the first-ever celebrities. Yet we must not forget that celebrity is also a commodity as we’ve seen in this election. It has been packaged and delivered to be consumed by citizens who “give themselves up to the easy pleasures of capitalism (like mass media, consumerism, and celebrity) (so that) they are more readily controlled by tyrants.[i] Thus, when celebrities like Donald have moral order, which is best defined as a shared set of values and norms, it allows any celebrity who’s smart enough to realize this power a chance to create and maintain cohesion, community and solidarity. When Hillary labelled his supporters “deplorables,” he harnessed the power of his celebrity to ignite this as a catalyst for further camaraderie.
A book written by a closeted Democratic Congressmen titled Congressmen X states, ‘It’s far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification.” Furthermore, Donald Trump was quoted in People Magazine in 1998 by saying, “If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.” His numbers were terrific and fair play to Donald for positioning himself as a commodity; he transformed himself into the opulent celebrity the masses needed him to be.
I work with 26 different people in Sheffield, England. As I walked the shop-floor this morning I could feel the glares and stares. People are looking for a reaction out of me and I’m trying to keep my head held high even though I’m truly feeling embarrassed as to why he got elected. I’m the only American in the company and whereas I used to feel a sense of pride and patriotism, today feels different. I’m embarrassed that the system seems broken; it has to be. I was asked, “how can this be the best you have to offer the American people?” I don’t have an answer because I have the same question. How can politicians be so inept to the voice of the people not to elect a more viable candidate? Old-school politics is out the window. Hillary should have been packaged differently in order to appeal to a wider audience. Politics is a game and she didn’t commodify herself the way Donald did in order for there to be a more widespread consumption of her by the people…
I started this blog as an outlet for me to express my opinions and to serve as a reminder that silver linings exist even in the darkest situations. I grew tired of seeing rants on any form of social media because as much as we like to admit, sometimes we can’t avoid algorithms which force us to confront other’s expressions. While I promote this blog via social, you made a conscious decision to come here and read my thoughts (thank you if you made it this far). So where’s the pinch of positivity we all desperately need in the aftermath of this election? The next time around, let’s take a hard look at celebrity and how politicians are packaged. They can’t come across as robots. Obama was packaged beautifully and it got him two terms. In 2020, let’s elect a celebrity we can all proudly stand behind as leader of the free world, because, that's what the presidency has become, hasn't it?
[i] The Sociology of Celebrity. Pg. 4. Robert Wosner.