January 02, 2008

The Celebrity Effect

author_karen By Karen Sternheimer

If you follow politics even a little bit, by now you have heard that Oprah Winfrey is actively campaigning for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Political commentators are busy asking each other what effect her support will have on his candidacy. Will she put him over the top to become the Democratic nominee? 

Critics tend to overestimate the influence celebrities actually have on the clip_image002public, fearing that we are blinded by fame and idolize Hollywood stars. Some think that they make us think it is cool to have kids without being married or be a single parent (as former Vice President Dan Quayle accused the fictional television character Murphy Brown of doing in 1992).

Oprah Winfrey is certainly not the first famous person to openly campaign for a candidate, but she is arguably the most powerful. No one can deny that she’s a one-woman empire of influence. But it is one thing to read a book because she loved it or buy a set of cotton jersey sheets because they made her Favorite Things show once upon a time (I’m guilty of this one myself…they are really soft!). It’s another to cast a vote based on a recommendation. After all, we can read lots of books and have several sets of sheets, but we get just one vote.

A lot of people might like to hear about celebrities’ private lives, about their clip_image004families and relationships down to the most mundane minutiae from their lives, true or not. We may want to have their expensive stuff, or to try to look as good as some of them do, have as attractive a mate, but much of the news coverage of celebrities is more of a handbook for what not to do (like drive drunk, shave your head, lose custody of your kids, and so forth).

Celebrities are a lot like the popular kids in school—they tend to have the best clothes, new cars, and lots of friends (as long as they are popular). Everyone else knows who they are, but we might not really like them. In fact, we may enjoy finding out that they aren’t that perfect after all. In a large, heterogeneous society as our own, we tend to have fewer and fewer social networks in common with others--except for celebrities.

German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies had a name for this condition: Gesellschaft. Celebrities can become a form of social glue that helps us bond by our admiration and (frequently) condemnation of high-profile people and reaffirm a sense of shared morality.

In contrast, people who live in smaller communities have many of the same social networks and know lots of the same people. Tönnies called this kind of condition Gemeinschaft (which literally translates to mean “community”). This is not to say people in small towns have no interest in celebrities or celebrity gossip; in fact, condemning the “Hollywood elite” can serve to reinforce boundaries and shared values of a particular group.

But even though we might follow the stories of celebrities’ private lives (which are often more entertaining than their movies), people will not necessarily follow them to the polls or make other major life choices based on what the rich and famous are doing.

clip_image006In fact, in contemporary American politics, celebrity status can signify being out-of-touch with mainstream voters. For one, both celebrities and the popular culture their industry manufactures give the impression that Hollywood is a morally questionable place. Sometimes celebrity endorsements have the effect of making a candidate seem to be one of “them” rather than one of “us.” Some candidates’ appeal comes from presenting themselves as populists or regular people. Ironically, the very nature of celebrity implies that someone is not ordinary. So too much celebrity support can backfire.

Also, celebrities are often rich, unlike most of the general public, whose median income is about $48,000 a year; (about a week’s pay for a modestly successful star). Their interests are not necessarily ours, even if we may agree on a few things. I happen to live in the same zip code as many celebrities here in Los Angeles, and while there may be some overlap in our opinions, economically speaking we are in different worlds.

Of course Oprah is not just your run-of-the mill celebrity. She encourages her viewers to find their inner-selves, to “use your life” as she often says, for a higher purpose. She is more than a pitchwoman (as some celebrities basically are). Since she appears to chat with the public on a daily basis and is open about her flaws and struggles, she seems more like “one of us.” Yet she is also an inspirational leader, and may transcend the “Hollywood elite” label so many celebrities cannot. (It also probably helps that her show tapes in Chicago, not Los Angeles).

With primary caucusing and voting just days away, we will soon see whether her support translates into votes. If nothing else, she and fellow celebrities are good at drawing our attention. Senator Obama will certainly get a look from many people who might not have paid attention to him otherwise.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Celebrity Effect:


Today only about half of America's eligible voters are actually casting votes for political elections. Political parties are not working as they used to to get people to the polls. Celebrities like Oprah who care more about the world than their money can help people pay attention to elections by supporting a candidate. The more people hear about elections on television, the more likely they are to choose political ideals and cast a vote based on what they believe.

I guess I have more of a question about the economic policies of Obama. I know about his healthcare plan that covers much but not all of the population, his ideas of raising taxes, his appeal as just one of the American people, but wht do celebrities vote more democratic than Republican?

So many people look up to celebrities as role models because they see what they beleive they want in those individuals-money, beauty (mostly photoshopped), "love", attention, popularity, free services, free will and adventure. They are the most widely know human beings so to reference yourself to a celebrity gives people the ability to sense out how that individual's personality or style might be because they can research that celebrity and see what their trends and values are. I believe celebrities should not be used as role models unless they want to be because many have unintentional negative effects on people- especially youth age children. I feel they deserve the upholdment of the first admendemt as we do and to ridicule them for doing "unethical" things is wrong, at times. Their trying to make a living just as we do and they deserve their privacy- making mistakes is part of life and they get punished to hard for them, at times. If people would not take pictues or film these actions then the wouldn't be leaked into the media and if their not in the media then how can they have any effect on people. People should use themselves as role models for their children and stop being lazy using technology to teach them the values of life. Its better to have personal, real connections with the people around you instead of those you see/read/hear about.

NETWORK!!!!!!=MONEY UP CLASS LOWER CLASS= TREE HUGGERS sure there are some people the money divas who care about other people and what they do with there time and money in the end what is the true benefit. celebs are a crowd and if you are not celeb than what are you? You have to be a total package anyway you can't have money and no looks to be the in crowd.

i dont really know that people look up to celebrities as much as just wanting what they have. people are never satisfied with what they have in life and always want more and celebrities make it look so easy to be rolling in the money and beautiful and always in shape no matter what they are seen eatin! i dont think it is so much of looking up to as wanting to be in their shoes

I think that people look up to celebrities because of what they have then who they are.I think that we look up to them for what they have then who they are.

People tend to look at celebrities as for what they have. I do not believe as role models half of them have drug and alcohol problems and quite a few have many relationships its like they change up partners all the time. They are famous and have lots of drama all the time and people love to see the drama as long its not their own.

People look and admire celebrities because they have such a priviledged life that others dream of. Its not usually for their morals or values, its mostly because of their designer clothes or who got a divorce this week.

The media is all around us. If we like a Celebrity we are going to pay more attention to want they like then one we don't like. We may even buy something they like or we see them wear. Many of them are not good role models. It is just that we see them so much or we can see them whenever we want just by going on the internet. Sharing a favotite star with a friend or family gives you something in common you can enjoy the same movies together or music since you like the person who is in the movie or singing.

It can help us because everybody knows celebrities. Celebrities have a lot of power and money.

Everybody look up to celebrities because they want what they have and that so called glamorous life.They have a lot of money and power and a lot of people look up to that.

I agree with the above statement, we do sometimes want what they have

Celebrities are idolized today because of all they have. They live the good life while common people are not able to do or have all that they have.

Celebrity's can help us connect with other people by being a "spokesperson" between people. They are in the lime light and who they are and what they stand for is put out into the public, therefore creating a connections between other people. I believe that other people look up to celebrites because they are constanly being watched, they are "beautiful people" and they can have anything they want. Other people are drawn to this, therefore looking to them for answers.


I think people look up to celebrities so much because all the stuff they do makes them look pretty. Most likily the people you hang around like some of the same celebrities and share a lot in common with you. I also think that just they are the reason the world is changing so much. they have to we need to get it.

Celebrities help us connect to other people sometimes because of our infatuation with a certain celebrity or sometimes because of our desire to see them fail. So many people look up to celebrities because, as the article says, celebrities are like the popular kids in school. They have the best clothes, shoes, and cars. They have all these great things and often are very attractive...on screen. I think most people look up to them as role models because they are successful, and everyone wants to be successful.

We connect with other people because of celebrities because we see them all over the media. TV PAPER INTERNET. Usually, they have a lot of effect on. They've done studies, ya know? Sixty percent of the time, it works everytime. People look up to celebrities because they put them on a pedestool and never come down.

two words Mass media is the reason celbs get all the attion

children no a days look up to the thing s on t.v. but some dont understand that thing on t.v. are not real they dont know how to separate the rel from the fake. looking up to hthe people on t.v. for some is a good thing that gives kds something to look up to and to have a goal to set for them self. but they also need to know taht some dreams are not reachable or if they set their mind to something they can achieve anything

People look up to celebrities because they believe that a celebrity can do no wrong. Some people look up to celebrities just to watch them fall. I personally don't admire or look up to any celebrities; they are just normal people who happen to make more money than me, appear in the tabloids (thank God I don't) and get away with almost everything. By seeing that everyone has flaws, and that nobody is perfect, celebrities can help us connect with people from all over. Take Angelina Jolie for example. She goes to Africa and helps with charities over there. Many Americans, after finding out what she did, participated in helping those less fortunate than themselves.

Celebrities can bring people together because these "beautiful" people are seen at least once in the news or in a magazine everyday. Everyone listens to the words of the rich and famous. Citizens do look up to these celebrities sometimes because of what the celebrity stands for or simply because they envy the person's fame. Either way celebrities are looked up to and have influence on others.

How can celebrities help us connect to other people Oprah has a talk show celebrities as role models b/c the look good!

Celebrities can mention someone elses name once and everyone turns to that person to see who they are or what they do. Celebrities can make anyone famous. People tend to look up to them because their "famous" and alot of people put them on pedestals.


Looking up to celebrities can be dangerous. Just because they are popular, good looking, and talented does not mean that they are a good role model to follow in everyday life. Sometimes the poorest, ugliest and least talented are the BEST role models. They are humble people learning valuable lessons about life to succeed in life.

I tell you right now Oprah show have made so many people sucessful. Whether they were authors, wanted their own show, or bussiness, and legal profressions. You can watch severable people right now have their own show because of Oprah. If you want another star how about Arnold Swarsenager. He ran for governor of California. His campaing slogans were stolen lines from the movie the terminator. He can't even say California. So I think that this blog is mistaken. Because there is alot of evidence that suggest that some celebrities can influence public opion.

A lot of people look at celebrities as role models because of their fantasy lives that some portray, but mostly because of all that they have; money, nice cars, and designer clothes and accessories. What most some people do not want to realize is that they worked hard to get where they are and most people can have what a celebrity has if they only try. Try to become all you can and you too can succeed.

Celeberties are probably idols because people are able to read about their past. In an odd way you can connect with them on a personal level. Sometimes you may not have that connection with your own parents or loved ones.

Celebritities have the power to influence millions of people and many people may look up to them for that quality.

Celeberties have a huge influence on people. Especailly childern they look up to famous people as role models. The reason why is because they turn on the t.v. they them. They open a magizine and see them. Their gorgeous people who to them look like their having all the fun in the world. Who wouldn't want to be like that?

Celebes have a huge impact on society. The way we talk and dress. I think they have a lot of responsibitly in keeping a positive image because so many people are watching. Although lately there have been a few disappointing cases. Huge stars have gotten into some major troubles. Reminding us that they are indeed people just like us.

I agree with what one of the other people on here said syaing how we as people dont really look up to celebrities as much as just wanting what they have. people are never satisfied with what they have in life and always want more and celebrities make it look so easy to be rolling in the money and beautiful and always in shape no matter what they are seen eatin! i dont think it is so much of looking up to as wanting to be in their shoes

People try to set celebrities ahas role models because they see what they believe they want in those individuals-money, beauty "love", attention, popularity, free services, free will and adventure.
Celebrities have a great impact in social network, as people tend to share their common judgments about them. By seeing that everyone has flaws, and that nobody is perfect, celebrities can help us connect with people from all over. condemning the “Hollywood elite” can serve to reinforce boundaries and reaffirm a sense of shared morality of a particular group.

some people see that some of the celebreties are role models but not all of them. like hayden peniterre saves wild life, and angelina jolie did take care of the kids that starve and have no shelter she adopted her kids to save them. but there sometimes when they are not role models, the ones who drink and party all the time giving a bad image of celebeties. they mostly do good but they can damage their reputation as quick as it was made

Seems to me that celebrities are practically placed on a throne and everyone just sees the glamour so the rest of the world looks up to the actors, singers,ect. People tend to want the high life and many people will listen to celebrities when they would not listen to anyone else.I guess this is why actors are used to sell so many products.

I believe celebrities should not be used as role models unless they want to be because many have unintentional negative effects on people- especially youth age children. I feel they deserve the upholdment of the first admendemt as we do and to ridicule them for doing "unethical" things is wrong, at times.

The status celebrities hold reminds me of ancient Egypt. Celebrities, like Egyptian pharoahs, are regarded to be gods in a human form. Celebrities have so much power over the American public because of their fame; they command the media and attention of the people when more important things are going on in the world. It's a disheartening fact that what a celebrity wore to some event is more important than things like the war we're fighting.

People tend to look at celebrities because they admire them.

People look and admire celebrities' dressing style because they have such a privileged life that others just dream. If you want to look like them then just try the t-shirts for DJ bravo fashion store.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Become a Fan

The Society Pages Community Blogs

Interested in Submitting a Guest Post?

If you're a sociology instructor or student and would like us to consider your guest post for everydaysociologyblog.com please .

Norton Sociology Books

The Everyday Sociology Reader

Learn More

The Real World

Learn More

You May Ask Yourself

Learn More

Introduction to Sociology

Learn More

Essentials of Sociology

Learn More

Race in America

Learn More

The Family

Learn More


Learn More

The Art and Science of Social Research

Learn More

« What Makes a Real Parent? | Main | Doggie's BFF »