They have become their idols, role models or examples of what they want to be and become in life, despite having neither met them nor talked to them.

The phenomenon of idolising celebrities has existed since the dawn of the media, and is especially so in this era when television and the internet have brought celebrities into everybody’s homes. From the early twentieth century, movie stars, singers and other celebrities have been playing significant roles in influencing the lives of teenagers. teenage idolisation these days mainly focuses on media celebrities such as movie stars, musicians, singers or even celebrity bloggers, possibly due to teens’ high daily exposure to the media and the influence of pop culture. other celebrities that they idolise may include sports stars or even famous 1mavericks such as steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeffrey Bezos, of Apple, Facebook and Amazon fame respectively. these celebrities are constantly under the media spotlight and are recognisable to millions of people. However, for teenagers in particular, these celebrities are more than television or online personas. they have become their idols, role models or examples of what they want to be and become in life, despite having neither met them nor talked to them.

Teenagers may be charmed by the celebrities, be it by their charismatic personalities or their physical appearance. With her down-to-earth talk and personality that reaches millions of people worldwide, U.s talk show host oprah Winfrey has won over millions of fans worldwide, becoming a mega-celebrity almost overnight. other examples include Jay Leno and david Letterman, late-night U.s. talk show hosts, whose humour charm people around them. Bowled over by their charisma, teenagers elevate these celebrities to idol status. With regard to physical beauty, movie stars like Brad Pitt, Will smith and Megan Fox are household names for many teens because of their appealing looks. this reflects the prevalent preoccupation with physical beauty. idolising these picture-perfect specimens of beauty or being swayed by the charisma of the celebrities also highlights the superficiality that may be embedded in the psyche of teenagers.

The fame and riches surrounding celebrities such as Bill Gates and david Beckham may also be highly intriguing to teenagers. These celebrities’ everyday lives may appear to be extremely exciting compared to the dull routine of ordinary folks. this contrast between ordinary life and the extraordinary reality of rich and famous celebrities could be enormously appealing to teenagers, who then proceed to mimic celebrities’ behaviour, to be like their famous and wealthy idols. Peer pressure could also play an important role in this process of imitating celebrities, as teens could indulge in ‘groupie’ behaviour and even become members of fan clubs, in order to be a part of and belong to in-groups of ’cool’ teenagers.

And then there are those whose genuine admiration of celebrities’ achievements in their respective expert fields translates into idolisation. For example, sports heroes such as Cristiano ronaldo and Maria sharapova, and celebrity chefs like Jamie oliver and Gordon ramsay attract fans not because of their fame or their riches, but because they have achieved hard-won victories in games or matches that they play, or because they can create delectable delights and dole out valuable cookery advice. For these reasons, teens would aspire to become as good in sports or in culinary skills, and thus idolise them.

The effects of teen idolisation are mixed. teens would benefit from idolising celebrities who give back to the community and behave appropriately. the celebrity might even motivate them to do well in school and stay out of trouble. While having role models can be healthy for teens, especially for those who might lack strong adult role models in their lives, it can also cause harm if teens idolise a celebrity with less-than-stellar behaviour. in tabloids and entertainment news programmes, celebrity scandals are 2par for the course. Miley Cyrus has shocked many with her ‘twerking’ antics while the recently deceased Michael Jackson also created waves with his extensive cosmetic surgery and his alleged child molestation. Many celebrities do not make a secret of alcohol or drug abuse either.

As long as teenagers are able to be 3discerning in their idolisation, they can enjoy an actor’s movies or a singer’s songs even if he engages in poor behaviour outside of his film or music career. At this stage of their lives, teenagers would also be attuned to facts such as the consequences of poor choices some celebrities have made, such as serving jail time or paying stiff fines. At the end of the day, teens could be guided by their immediate adult caregivers and should be trusted to pick good celebrity role models, thus coming into their own as strong young adults with a clear sense of identity and purpose.

[ Word Bank ]
1. mavericks: those who refuse to abide by the norms of a group

2. par for the course: typical

3. discerning: having good judgement



Article extracted from iThink Issue 3 (pages 20-23)

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Written by: Mr Kelvin Yap from www.gptuitionmaestro.com