There’s a documentary on Netflix called My Life With Tiffany that follows several people living their lives around fictional relationships with the pop singer Tiffany. These people are crazy, but their affliction isn’t that much different from the 13 year old girls who go around pretending Justin Bieber is their boyfriend, the teenagers who talk constantly about Rage Against the Machine, or even the lawyers who name drop celebrities like they know them. The question is why. Why are most Americans so obsessed with people they’ve never actually met?
According to the science of Evolutionary Psychology as outlined in Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene and Ridley’s Blank Slate among others, humans are wired to defer to the powerful people in their tribes. In an evolutionary sense, power is linked not only to standing upright and talking with a deep voice, but to acceptance. Humans are wired to build up those with social value and nobody has higher value than celebrities. But where does it start?
Malcolm Gladwell in the The Tipping Point points out that celebrity starts with trusted members of society. These writers, hipsters, preachers, cult leaders, all flock toward a person. Maybe it’s because they see something in them or maybe it’s because of advertising, but these influencers fall in love and spread the name of a celebrity around their circles.
But is it all influencers? Could it also be that fans are longing for acceptance from something else?
When someone sits down and listens to their favorite song, their body changes. Think about it: you put on your favorite track, possibly one you haven’t heard in a while, and you’re taken back in time. You relive a good memory and unconsciously associate the singer or band with that feeling. Next you get the chills, and they feel good.
That’s where musicians get their power; chills are the same thing we feel when we’re falling in love. Compound that with the fact that our friends also like the song and the artist, and now it’s social suicide not to like the guy.
Are movie stars the same way? What is it about Ryan Gosling or Brad Pitt that make women crazy? It’s the same social power.
When you go to the movies, you’re not seeing actual people up on screen, you’re seeing Brad Pitt’s most attractive side frolicking and getting the world’s hottest women. There’s nothing more dominant and disarming than watching a guy’s ten foot tall face swoon ladies you’ll never get a chance with.
I’m not saying that women in the audience are watching The Notebook and consciously thinking, “oh wow, Ryan Gossling got Rachel McAdams? She’s so pretty and high value! I need that class of guy as my boyfriend,” but subconsciously it’s going on.
Once this happens enough times you start to mix characters from movies with family life taken from magazines. You create a complete person, associate him with the previously discussed good memories, and that’s how fans are born.
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