Running head: SUBSTANCE ABUSE: PAST AND CURRENT TRENDS OF CELEBRITY USE AND MEDIA REPORTING Substance Abuse: Past and Current Trends of Celebrity Use and Media Reporting University of Phoenix Chemical Dependency in the Workplace PSY425 Todd Holman Nov 07, 2009 Introduction Substance abuse in America ebbs and flows from generation to generation. However, the exposure of todays generation to much more than past generations due to the dramatic increase in the availability of information through news media both on television and the internet.
Americans have reached a time in which substance abuse by celebrities is seen, via these outlets, with little to no legal repercussions and at times elevating those involved to new heights of stardom. Even those not in the celebrity limelight are influenced by “reality” shows. These shows promote the average Joe to celebrity status often by showing “real life” scenarios that include the use of alcohol and drugs. This almost unobscured access into the sometimes illegal and immoral parts of celebrities and non-celebrities private lives has influenced the landscape of what is considered socially and morally acceptable levels of substance abuse.
Celebrities vs. Reality TV Stars Celebrity status used to be defined as actors and actresses, singers, musicians, athletes, and politicians. Most Americans saw these celebrities as untouchable because their only exposure to them was via movies, traditional news media such as newspaper and magazines and television. During the early 1990s Music Television (MTV) began a new show called The Real World in which they moved a group of young adults into a house and followed them on camera (The Real World: New York, 1992).
Those watching saw the ‘reality’ of what happens when people of varying cultures, beliefs, race, gender and sexual preference living together and thus the door to reality television was open. The average American could now associate with these reality show celebrities on a different level and even aspire to be of celebrity status without possessing any acting, singing, sports, or political abilities. Since their inception, reality shows have grown and evolved as American television watchers have demanded more dramatic and realistic situations.
These much demanded overly dramatic, highly emotional situations often involve substance abuse and sexuality and in order to promote the realness of the show, cast members are regularly shown using and abusing alcohol. This again only helps average Americans associate with these reality television stars and their substance abuse. Reality shows crossed the bridge to overlap media types similar to the way news sources have by pushing their content to the Internet, thus creating a greater viewing base.
As a means to achieve fame and celebrity status many young Americans began videotaping themselves doing day to day act ivies, including the substance abuse they have been exposed to, often uploading these videos to sites such as YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook. Reality shows have survived on the premise that the more outrageous the cast members on the show, the more viewers they received. This thought process leads vulnerable Americans toward a belief that the more outrageous they act the more celebrity status they can achieve and when one is abusing drugs or alcohol, acting skills are not necessary.
News, Media and Social Networking The ability of Americans to access information is unlike any other time in history. Computers and the Internet are at the hub of news, communication and education with social networking media such as Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter leading the way. With just the sheer volume of users, two years ago Myspace estimated 80 to 90 million users (Topper, 2007) whereas just last month Twitter reported 55 million unique visitors each month (Lashinsky, 2009), the dissemination of news and events, particularly that of celebrity substance abuse travels at alarming rates.
Celebrities themselves are participants on these same social networks, creating connections and friends to increase their fan base. Sharing their public accounts of their private lives including the use of alcohol and drugs gives the appearance that not only are they in control, when that quite possibly could not be farther from the truth, but also that what they are doing is socially acceptable. On the other end of the scope from Internet social networking are the print and news media outlets.
Social networking generally provides snipets of information and stories, in order to compete, traditional news sources pay millions of dollars to aquire the exclusive interviews and shocking photos from paparazzi to back up the stories that spin out of control on the Internet and aforementioned networking sites. Traditional news shows, such as Cable News Network’s (CNN) spinoff channel Headline News (HLN) have now added shows like Showbiz Tonight devoted to celebrity news.
On the forefront of celebrity and hollywood gossip is the popular TMZ. com website. TMZ likens themselves to the “Thirty Mile Zone” used by Hollywood during the 1960s to monitor filming rules (About: TMZ. com, 2009), essentially claiming to be the center of Hollywood and celebrity gossip. New sources use as many media types as possible to supply the American populace the news they demand. CNN not only has a fanpage on Facebook where it posts news, but also can be followed on Twitter, as can TMZ. com.
Cellular phone technology also allows all of these sources to push their content to the cellular phones via text message, and also allows individuals with smart phones such as Blackberry and iPhones, to link directly to their sites. Legal Implications In addition to viewing substance abuse on television shows, which up until the late twentieth century was unacceptable, Americans are now spectators in the sport of celebrity avoidance of the law. Both traditional and the new reality based celebrities continue to abuse alcohol and drugs and ultimately end up breaking the law. One website, TheSmokingGun. om, provides celebrity mugshots as well as publically available legal documents concerning criminal activity (The Smoking Gun: Arresting Images, 2009). Celebrities seem to only receive a slap on the wrist concerning criminal activity which paves the way for more substance abuse and more criminal activity. This is apparent on sites like TheSmokingGun. com when celebrities show up with multiple mugshots from multiple arrests. There is also the idea that some celebrities continue substance abuse because it allows them to act out in ways that attract media and papparzzi attention in to maintain their celebrity status.
Conclusion The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America (Young & Pinsky, 2009), is excellent summation and illustration of the points mentioned here. By publisizing celebrity substance abuse we are ultimately increasing their celebrity status. In turn, we are causing these same celebrities to continute the use and abuse of substances to maintain their celebrity status. News media outlets and reality show producers continue to feed this machine by banking on these sometimes outrageous acts to sell their product.
The American culture is caught in this explosion of media saturation in every facet of their lives by seeing celebrity substance abuse and it’s cause and effect reaction. Ultimately, the more we see, the more we become immune to it and the more socially acceptable it will become. Bibliography About: TMZ. com. (2009, November). Retrieved November 7, 2009, from TMZ. com: http://www. tmz. com/ Lashinsky, A. (2009, November 9). Twitter Hits Tweenhood. Fortune , p. 76. Simon, D. , & Chopra, D. (2007). Freedom from Addiction.
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