Is the Cult of Celebrity in Decline?

Nader Elhefnawy
2 min readMay 17, 2024

The title of this post may seem an odd question to ask these days, looking at, for example, the extreme heights to which the pop cultural status of Taylor Swift has ascended. Still, I think that even if there are extraordinary outliers, when we look at the bigger picture this is exactly what is happening these days.

Part of it, I think, is the extreme fragmentation of contemporary culture, the more pronounced because of how online life has fragmented. But I also think that the decline of many particular types of celebrity has been relevant, partly as a matter of that fragmentation but not just because of it. There is, for instance, the decline of the movie star over the course of the century (where such factors as the ascent of the film franchise have played their part). There is the decline of the sports star (a function of a declining interest in sports, in which economic factors may be playing their part). There is the decline of the supermodel (which, contrary to the conventional wisdom, seems to me to have by no means run its course in the 1990s, but continued into our time, partly as advertising has changed). And so on and so forth.

Yet that does not seem all of it, a certain “cheapening” of celebrity having also occurred. Overexposure, which seemed a factor years ago as the tabloidization of everything proceeded apace, has likely played its part, removing the sense of distance that was part of celebrity’s mystique (as one notices if they have not come to completely filter out of their minds the contents of the clickbait with which we are barraged wherever we go online). Factoring into this is the way in which the category of celebrity has been broadened. Certainly people of conventional mind look at entertainment, sports, fashion and the rest as frivolous, but when those were the foundation of celebrity of that kind the celebrity was at least supposed to be distinguished by some superlative achievement (artistic or athletic skill, for example), or perhaps just exceptional quality (the special something that made somebody “a star!”) — as opposed to the idiots we see on all of these online videos, who are famous in spite of being distinguished by nothing at all (or at least nothing good), and inexplicably get millions of views in spite of that.

All that said, is this decline of celebrity I am talking about a bad thing? I find myself remembering that I have written here about the cult of celebrity as having gone insane in the past, and reflected a good deal that was unfortunate and unhappy in our social life. However, the way in which that cult may be passing, if it is passing, does not seem to be suggestive of things getting much better that way, and maybe even their getting worse.

Originally published at https://raritania.blogspot.com.

--

--

Nader Elhefnawy

Nader Elhefnawy is the author of the thriller The Shadows of Olympus. Besides Medium, you can find him online at his personal blog, Raritania.