Yes – Annabel Steele – 11% of Votes
I’ve heard mixed comments regarding the hundreds of students who recently flocked to the Old Course in the hope of seeing huge figures such as Justin Timberlake or Bill Murray squeeze their global reputations into little St Andrews.
Now, you can always have too much of a good thing. I’m not going to argue that infatuation with celebrities is healthy or justifiable – I hate the Kardashian hype, and I’m not a massive fan of influencer culture either. But these obsessions have come about in response to the politics of social media, which has birthed a wave of desire to replicate celebrities.
Kylie Jenner’s make-up range sums this entire attitude up: she has designed a product marketed exclusively by telling consumers that if they buy it, they can look like her.
But this isn’t what true celebrity culture is all about. Our obsession with celebrities stretches way back to the origins of humanity, which should serve as proof in itself that deep down, underneath all these Instagram ads and gossip columns, there is some – thing instinctual about our deification of celebrities.
Creativity is not a solitary endeavour. I’m a music maker, but first and foremost I’m a music lover. I am entirely self-taught and therefore self-motivated, and I can say with ab – solute certainty that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I wasn’t so obsessed with being a consumer of music.
If you see me walking down the street, I’m wearing headphones. If I’m in the house, my amp is on full volume blasting Soundcloud tracks. I live near Manchester, a city which boasts the most incredible live music scene in the UK and I spent my high school years (and every single penny I earned) attending gig after gig.
Then, when I got to university, I started making my own stuff – and I owe everything I’ve created to the musicians pouring out of my speakers 24/7. I deify them in my own head: Maggie Rogers, Mick Jagger, Elderbrook, Two Feet…they make up my own personal pantheon of creative inspiration. And I’ve never met another music maker who doesn’t do the same thing. The origin of celebrity culture is inspiration, and I think the most amazing thing about being human is having the ability to inspire and to be inspired.
We live in a society defined by hierarchy. There are healthy, well-motivated hierarchies, and there are tyrannical, selfish or dangerous hierarchies. But our tendency towards hierarchy does make fundamental sense: there are a lot of us, and it would be pretty delusional to claim that we could function in a society where power and responsibility was divided equally.
Obviously, hierarchies depend on the trustworthiness and competence of the people at the top of the triangle, and when those people don’t fulfil these characteristics – well, look around at our current situation and you’ll see what happens. But the concept is sound, and the same applies in terms of the hierarchies created by celebrity culture.
Generally speaking, more talented creatives have more success, rising to the top of the celebrity hierarchy and enjoying the benefits which come with it. The figures at the top are those whose creations satisfy the largest proportion of consumers, and while this isn’t necessarily the most accurate measurement of creative ‘talent’, it’s the most sensible and human way of organising the creative industries and the stardom which surrounds them. In other words, if we’re going to continue to live as a creative race, we have to come to terms with the inevitability of celebrity culture: it’s basically unavoidable, in terms of the necessity of inspiration which I spoke about before but also in terms of the politics of business.
Everything human revolves around business, whether you like it or not, and hierarchy is both a perpetuator and a product of business. Therefore, celebrity culture isn’t just something which should be praised as a hub of inspiration; it’s something which we have essentially programmed into the way we live.
I don’t think it would be unreasonable of me to assume that, if something is both praiseworthy and entirely essential, it’s pretty easy to defend.
Celebrity culture, as far as I can tell, is both of these things. Social media has turned it into a way of manipulating people into a terrifying sense of duty to replicate their favourite celebrities, but the foundations of celebrity culture remain the same, and remain totally uncondemnable.
So next time the Dunhill comes around, don’t let your annoying flatmate or that arrogant guy in your philosophy tutorial tell you that it’s stupid to go celebrity-spotting; it’s simply natural.
No – Joe Waters – 89% of Votes
Did you know there was a Golf tournament in St Andrews recently? Statistically speaking, if you’ve as much as considered breathing in this town and you’ve answered no, you must be from the deepest crevice of Jupiter. You might also have heard that some moderately famous people also happened to have turned up in St Andrews as well. Again, statistics show that, if you didn’t know that, you’re a human satellite currently or biting Pluto.
Call me boring and cantankerous as grow into my old age, but I simply cannot understand those who flock to the 18th to see Justin Timberlake and Bill Murray tee off. Not because they’re uninteresting, or undeserving of their fame, but primarily because it cannot possibly be of such great benefit to you to wait several hours, perhaps days, anticipating their arrival, to only see them for a matter of minutes before they move on.
Not only this, there is the fact that a great many people who flocked to the Old Course to see said celebrities were flocking for the sake of flocking, not because the individuals in question had any particular appeal, or importance to them, but simply because they were a somewhat famous person of whom it would be a rarity that they would be seen up-close again.
Now, if Justin Timberlake has donated his kidneys to you, or if Bill Murray tended to your wounds fol – lowing a car accident he was involved in recently, then perhaps you’re excused from my ire.
When Barack Obama came to St Andrews a few years ago, I could understand the flocking there, for Obama acted as a beacon of hope to many, as well as having a genuinely tangible impact on many (particularly American) folks’ lives here.
Obama may have had a direct involvement with you having access to healthcare for the first time, may have helped you get a job, or some such other service, and as such you may have understandably wanted to crane your head to get a view of your political saviour.
However, unless young Justin saved your leg from gangrene, you are not absolved.
I believe this obsession with the famous runs wider in our society and goes to demonstrate a problem I find with it. We have become obsessed with the inane and the materialistic so much so that our entire day can revolve around catching but a glimpse of someone we covet. Not having a conversation with them, or sharing a brew or moaning about the weather. No, just seeing them swing their arms a bit is enough entertainment for most of us today.
No thank you, strong tea and some custard creams with decent company? Now that’s something I’ll happily flock to.
I think the attitude we have to our interactions with culture are extremely damaging, instead of spending time fully appreciating Murray’s acting or Timberlake’s music, we decide to consume their image and interrupt their time on the course with incessant cheering and hand-waving, desperately trying to get their attention.
This degrades them to nothing more than a socially desirable mannequin for people to gawp at. Instead of being a beacon of happiness or a conduit for good memories, our celebrities have instead become magnets for the uninteresting, the uninspired and the materialistic.
All of this is failing to mention the absolute mundane activities that celebrities happen to be doing whilst we hound them relentlessly.
When I was twelve, and playing football in a tournament, a certain Paul Scholes of Manchester United came along to watch his son annihilate my team.
Interested not in the games of their own, the players (and parents) did little but beg and plead with poor Paul to sign various bits of kit: boots, shirts and the like.
Even twelve-year old me felt immense pity for the guy. He just wanted to watch his son play football, not have to deal with your obsession with him. Equally, Justin and Bill probably would bite your hand off if you offered them a quiet, peaceful game of golf on the historic Old Course but instead they have been stabbed in the back by the legions of hungry, drooling celeb-spotters. Et tu, St Andrews?
If I’m coming across as blustering, or making much-ado-about-nothing, then it’s because I am. I fully acknowledge that really it’s none of my business what people want to spend their time doing, how they want to absorb their culture or even what culture said people enjoy absorbing. However, don’t feel like I’m not entitled to pass judgement unto you for turning out for someone who just wants to go about their day, playing their silly game.