When did celebrity culture begin?

Celebrities make you narcissistic?

Dr. Drew Pinsky and his co-author Dr. In The Mirror Effect, S. Mark Young investigate how addiction and behavior in society - the willingness to admire, accept, and copy celebrities - harms our relationships and families. A section.

She tried singing, acting, modeling and even writing a book, but in the end she is famous for being famous. She seems to slide through a glamorous world of prestige and privilege where the usual rules do not apply. When she violated her suspended sentence after being arrested for drunk driving, neither her celebrity nor her parents' net worth were enough to keep her out of jail for at least four days.

She's a fixture on the club scene and a paparazzi favorite. Her job performance is increasingly unpredictable, she is now better known for her high profile exposure, drunk driving, successive retirement in rehab, and obvious fondness for cocaine than for the acting skills that made her famous. Her dysfunctional parents are almost as popular as she is in the tabloids. As her glory-seeking family creeps into her spotlight, everyone is waiting to see what she'll do next to get attention.

She is a supermodel. She wears couture and dates, rock stars and millionaires. Just a teenager, when she became the darling of the high-fashion set, she is credited with popularizing heroin chic - the pale, indolent, drug-addicted look of increasingly prevalent models so emaciated that they are barely a size 0. However, published photos of her snorting cocaine, and a series of romances featuring drugged rock stars, fueled the buzz she should be in the rehab instead of on the catwalk. Her public apology and promise to work on "various personal issues" continued to admit she had a drug problem, but likely helped save her career. Her employers and suitors quickly forgot and forgot as her jet set lifestyle and reign as a style icon retained her place of honor in both fashion magazines and the tabloids.

From the cute teen to the highly sexualized teen pop star, to the step-blinking paparazzi magnet, she has often traded her sexuality to get attention.

At seventeen, her naughty school girl look and provocative lyrics made her a platinum recording artist with the best-selling single of the year. When she was twenty-one, Forbes magazine named her the world's most powerful celebrity. Her career has been derailed by allegations of drug and alcohol abuse, unsuccessful rehabilitation visits, fickle relationships, and downright bizarre behavior. Five years later, she was taken to a psychiatric hospital in a public clash and cost custody of her children. While a carefully constructed “comeback” seems to describe her return from the abyss, the question arises: can she stay healthy when in the spotlight?

If you read People or US Weekly, regularly check out gossip sites like TMZ.com, or watch the entertainment news or even reality TV, you are sure that you recognized each of the people described here. Without hearing their names or career highlights, you still know exactly who they are. Celebrities today are recognized just as much for their bodies, rap lists, and rehab missions as they are for their talents or résumés.

That's because the behavior of stars today is far more dysfunctional than it was ten years ago. The personal lives of these characters - many of them young, troubled, and unsettling - have become the defining storylines of our entertainment culture, played in real time and upheld for our amusement, scrutiny, and judgment. Celebrity gossip, branded as “entertainment news,” tells stories of excessive partying, promiscuity, divine tantrums, eating disorders, spectacular meltdowns, and drug and alcohol abuse, behaviors that have become more open, dramatic, and unsettling than in previous generations.

The media are still reporting on all of the traditional celebrity gossip staples: who is lost or gained; Who is going to get married, divorced, or cheated on? Who wore which designer on which occasion? Who has a new hairstyle (or, these days, a new nose or smoother forehead). The tabloid press specializes in making the everyday appear glamorous. In recent years, however, a new breed of extreme, lewd, unflattering smut has redefined celebrity reports and audience expectations thanks to unrestricted cable and internet coverage.

Never before has it been possible to feel like an insider in the culture of celebrity like today. We all have 24/7 access to the intimate lives of the stars, courtesy of the Celebrity Media Machine. We can admire so-called candid photos of celebrities by scrolling through US Weekly, In Touch, Life & Style, Star, or People at the supermarket checkout, or following the gossip as they go to our home or office computers, BlackBerries, or cell phones . (In big cities, it's even available on-screen in taxis.) We see a constant parade of sometimes private, often unfavorable moments from the lives of our favorite celebrities, caught by paparazzi with hi-tech video cameras or fans with cell phone cameras , all posted on TMZ or YouTube.

Encouraged by the de facto relaxation of libel standards on the internet, bloggers and paparazzi feed us their stories live and up close without checking facts, especially if the reporter witnessed the plot firsthand (or even captured it on video) . Rather than relying on official press releases or credible inside sources, even mainstream media are increasingly willing to tackle taboo topics in order to keep up with the new media.

From footage of a dazed-looking Britney Spears on a stretcher to a TMZ video of Heath Ledger's body being removed from his apartment by paramedics, no secret is too private, no too personal tragedy that is considered taboo. Life-threatening eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, self-harming behaviors such as cuts or overdoses, travel to rehab and public relapses, sex tapes, and outrageous diva behavior are irresistible celebrity nourishment for both the audience who consumes it and media outlets who take advantage of it. And such behavior only seems to increase the celebrity's fame, with little or no negative impact on their public reputation.

If that weren't enough, cable television networks have filled their schedules with literally hundreds of reality TV shows where former, current, and emerging stars swap their dignity for a chance to play by the new rules. And those who want to do more than just passively watch the antics of the rich and famous can audition to compete for our own fifteen minutes of fame on one of hundreds of reality TV shows. Or we can add our voices to the cultural chatter by anonymously assessing celebrity behavior on websites like PerezHilton, Gawker, PopSugar or The Superficial. And those who find tracking celebrities who aren't familiar enough can even use the same media to cover themselves - blogging about their love and sex lives, parenting issues, political views, or even the smallest details of their daily lives. Those who long for the video commercial can take on the challenge of “Broadcasting Yourself” (YouTube’s trademark slogan) and channel their inner rock star, TV star, even amateur porn star.

As these online platforms have evolved, it's clear that they've given real people a forum to mimic these oversized, disturbing behaviors they learn from celebrity gossip media. The Internet serves as the unrestricted, unsupervised version of unrated television, where the lines between fantasy and reality are increasingly blurring. Our children, teenagers, and young men and women record dozens of hours of media gossip every week. And more and more, they are mimicking what they see if only they get attention from an audience of their peers. Teens sexy, even explicitly, post photos and videos of themselves online. They invite and provoke conversations with strangers through social networks like MySpace and Facebook and in online chat rooms. (Chris Hansen's recent "To Catch a Predator" series for Dateline NBC, a resounding credit rating, was based on the widespread risk of teenagers being contacted over the Internet for sexual association with strangers.) The Internet enables young people at risk to be any person project you can imagine hoping that people will notice you, fall in love with you, or possibly make you as famous in real life as they are already in their private fantasies.

In the past, most celebrities have worked hard to keep their more reckless or dangerous private conduct under wraps. They were concerned that excessive drinking, substance abuse and other vices could damage their public profile and thus their careers. Today things have changed. Reporting on tabloids seems like the most immediate avenue to building a career of your own, and the most publicity-hungry celebrities and wannabes are only too willing to expose their unhealthy behaviors to turn the cameras and public attention on their lives. The problems of real characters like Anna Nicole Smith are being exploited by the celebrity news business without worrying about the example they set or the personal safety of the celebs. And the public, increasingly unsure of where the conversation ends and the exploitation begins, consumes such images without thinking twice. When Anna Nicole, who lived her outrageous life on camera, was found dead in her Florida hotel room, her death felt less like the tragic loss of a deeply troubled soul than the inevitable final installment of a shamelessly exploitative miniseries.

It's easy for each of us to follow the love life of an actress we like, or the missteps of a rock star that we find cool, like they're starring in a soap opera that we can't overlook. But it's also easy to forget that these characters are real people, and this behavior, which may just seem wild or outrageous to us, can actually be dangerous and unsettling, a sign that these real people are going through a desperate time. And when our exposure to the uninhibited behavior of the stars increases in their graphic intensity and intimacy, a disturbing phenomenon occurs. As we study the photos in magazines, record hours of “entertainment” and reality programs on television, and stare at our computer screens, we absorb the images and our perception of the normal begins to change.

When stars are observed in risky behavior - drinking heavily, taking drugs, refusing rehab, losing huge amounts of weight in a short period of time, making and posting "private" sex videos - they are doing what psychologists consider to be "modeling" this behavior: That is, an image that serves as a model for viewers of the show. And when memorable fans soak up these images in the absence of responsible, mitigating comment, it becomes easy for such viewers to impose their own cravings for vicarious thrill, rebellion, or justification on such acts and to mirror them in their own behavior.

We call this the mirror effect: the process by which provocative, shocking, or otherwise disturbing behavior that has been normalized, expected, and tolerated in our media culture is increasingly reflected in our own behavior. In this book we examine the inherent danger when the line between fantasy and reality blurs; when audiences get used to seeing celebs dysfunction or portraying themselves as sexy, convincing, and dramatic; and when these caustic behaviors are reflected more and more in our lives and those of our children.

After years of interacting with famous people on a daily basis, I cannot dismiss these behaviors as harmless or tolerable. I am alarmed to see how widely such dysfunctional behavior is accepted as glamorous, even desirable. While some may view our entertainers' outrageous behavior as the inevitable by-product of talent, creativity, and fame itself, or a sign of today's laid-back social mores, I'd like to identify it for what it is: a danger sign to the insidious group of traits that are clinically defined as narcissism.

Many celebrities display unmistakable symptoms of classic narcissistic behavior, from high specific personality traits to dangerous and self-destructive behavior. As we will discuss in more detail in Chapter 4, the word narcissism can be misleading: it is often understood as self-love, but in fact narcissism has more to do with self-loathing than self-love. Celebrity narcissists are not egomaniac with high self-esteem. Rather, they are traumatized individuals who cannot really connect with other people. They are driven to gain fame, with their constant stream of attention, flattery, and empowerment, because they need the constant trickle of worship of approval to replace any kind of genuine self-love or self-esteem. As one of the world's most famous celebrities privately (and obscurely) put it, he considers himself "a piece of who - who the whole world is about".

Having studied celebrity behavior in the course of my work, I realized that celebrities don't become narcissists. Rather, narcissists are driven to become celebrities. Viewed through this lens, the dramatically overwhelming soap opera that we follow every day no longer seems so amusing; rather, it seems to be a cause for dismay. When you understand the danger of narcissistic behavior that is prevalent among celebrities but rooted in family and early childhood experiences, you will understand why current preoccupation with celebrities has troubling effects on modern society.

And why it's important to recognize and positively channel the narcissistic traits we all share.

It was an act of nature that brought me together with my co-author, social scientist Mark Young, and set us on the path to writing this book. One morning, during my morning run, I came across a large tree that had fallen across the street just a few houses away from me. When I was trying to get it out of the way, Mark came out of his house to see. We introduced ourselves first as neighbors and then as professionals and thus began a fruitful friendship and cooperation.

I've co-hosted the Syndicated Radio Show Loveline (a version that also ran on MTV for four years) for over twenty-five years. Today I'm also hosting a radio show for the day, Dr. Drew Live. On TV, I treat celebrity addicts on VH1 series celebrity rehab, and work with teens and their families on MTV's Sex ... with Mom & Dad. As a specialist in addiction medicine, I treat patients in a rehab facility in Los Angeles.

Mark owns the George Bozanic and Holman G. Hurt Chairs in the Sports and Entertainment Business at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. He is a trained researcher in social and organizational psychology. At the time we met, he was studying the entertainment industry while developing an MBA curriculum aimed at training the next generation of entertainment business professionals.

My time at Loveline has given me a unique perspective on celebrity and youth behavior. Thousands of celebrity guests have appeared on the show and many of them have shared their personal and psychological struggles with me and asked for guidance. On television I have received hundreds of thousands of calls from teenagers looking for practical answers to the problems they face every day. I've treated thousands of addicts in the hospital, both celebrities and ordinary people.

Over the years, as I treated more and more celebrities, I noticed an increase in the frequency and intensity of acts of unregulated behavior. And in recent years I've seen increasing evidence that my non-notorious patients are reflecting such behavior. I was gradually becoming convinced that narcissistic personality traits formed the basis of many challenging personality traits and that they played a key role in the psychiatric problems that drove these behaviors.

Because of the nature of our work, Mark and I often spoke about celebrities: how to deal with their problems, how to interpret their shared psychological traits, and how to understand the appeal they had, especially for Mark's students, most of whom were one Tag hoped to work with celebrities in the sports or entertainment industry. One day I suggested that if Mark had insider access to celebrity culture, he could improve his understanding of how to interact with celebrities. So I invited him to meet me at the Loveline studio every night. For many months he had sat and talked to the celebrities who appeared on the show and to their entourages: the friends, family, agents and publicists who accompanied them. He also spent time with celebrities on television and film sets and at countless entertainment industry events.

When I asked Mark what he thought of these experiences, he admitted that he found most celebrities to be friendly, savvy people, and that he liked many of them very much. As a group, they often behaved in ways that unnerved and confused him. I knew what he meant. I have a lot of friends who would be considered celebrities and sometimes their behavior hurts my heart for them. Practicing medicine in a psychiatric setting taught me long ago that otherwise loving people behave in disgusting ways when driven by forces they have not recognized and therefore cannot handle.

When I told Mark my theory that extreme narcissistic issues were the cause of most celebrity meltdowns and misbehavior, he responded immediately. His students were highly motivated professionals, but many of them admitted to admire famous people and, increasingly, his students displayed high levels of certain traits associated with narcissism, most notably an increased sense of legitimacy. Mark had also seen young people's psychological studies backing up his own anecdotal impressions. Some of USC's students, he said, were so sure they were going to get famous that they would keep agents just in case. He described the rise of USCene, a gossip blog (which no longer exists) that covered and photographed USC students to create campus stars. Like most gossip blogs, it revealed candid photos, the more provocative the better, and message boards loading unfiltered comments from viewers. The undergraduate population at USC, at least among those on this blog, modeled themselves on the celebrity lifestyle.

Many of today's celebrity stories are powerful enough to instigate behavioral pathology in their listeners, especially the most vulnerable members. The media is full of reports of celebrities wrestling with dysfunctional behavior, usually in four specific areas: body image, hypersexuality, substance abuse and addiction, and harmful behavior. Anyone who casually follows the celebrity gossip can name half a dozen widely admired celebrities who have had cosmetic surgery or eating disorders; who posted a sex tape; arrested for DUI or possession of controlled substances; or who played an ugly breakup on the world stage. More clearly than ever before, the tabloids and gossip pages show which stars consume drugs and alcohol, engage in dival behavior or explosive aggression, or experience dramatic fluctuations in their body weight and physical condition. Especially when it comes to young celebrities, this behavior is portrayed as tragically glamorous, dramatically alluring and - most worryingly - as normal and expected.