Celebrity culture: sorting reality from hyper-reality
Young people today are surrounded by a celebrity culture that's hard to compete with and could have a negative impact on their self-image. Celebrity influence is everywhere, from style magazines to Twitter, Snapchat, the world of 'reality' TV and airbrushed images. How is your child coping?
The trouble with celebrity role models
People have never had so much access to celebrities and their private lives, and the line between celebrity culture and our own lives is getting ever finer. The rich and famous seem comfortable sharing their innermost thoughts, lavish lifestyles and wildest tantrums in public – so it's no wonder our children think this is the norm.
"Exposure to celebrity drama, and the implicit acceptance that this type of behaviour is normal, can have a real impact on the way girls behave and interact with each other,"" says documentary filmmaker and women's advocate. ""It's important that girls learn to recognise what's real and what's manipulated to attract eyeballs and viewers."
The appeal of celebrity culture
When we asked 11-year-old Becky what she wants to be when she grows up, she responded instantly: "Famous!" When asked what she wanted to be famous for, she had more trouble deciding.
It seems the norm for girls to aspire to 'celebrity' with no real consideration for where that fame may come from. In her book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down WorldOpen in a new window, author Lisa BloomOpen in a new window reveals that 25% of young American women would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize
In a recent study by Girlguiding UK (PDF 2MB)Open in a new window, 37% of girls said they compare themselves to celebrities most of the time.
From fantasy to fact
Discussing the realities of famous people's lives and showing your child what goes on behind the cameras will start them thinking about how much effort goes into celebrities' appearances and the images we see on screen and in magazines.
"We discuss the fact that celebrities have chefs and personal trainers and how far removed that is from our reality," says Martine, mum to 12-year-old Lucy. "This keeps Lucy grounded about what is achievable."
Real reality versus hyper-reality
Does your child know that celebrities often outsource management of their social media profiles to external companies? What they're reading as their idols' innermost thoughts and feelings may be written by someone the celebrity doesn't even know.
Young people are bound to be influenced by their favourite stars and seek to imitate their behaviour while working out their own sense of self. By helping them see behind the celebrity veneer, you’ll help them become more discerning and confident i expressing themselves.
To protect privacy we've changed the names of people whose stories we tell on these pages, but the stories are genuine.
Appearances can be deceptive
Talk about what celebrities look like when they get up in the morning, and how they're transformed into the polished people we see online, on social media, on TV and in magazines
Looking good is a full-time job
Make a list of all the products and people involved in maintaining a celebrity's appearance. How much time and money do you think they spend on it all? Is it worth it?
Look at celebrities on social media
Check famous people's Twitter feed and other social media accounts together and talk about which posts might be real and which someone else could have written
Talent is worth much more than good looks
Help your child recognise celebrities' real talents, like a great voice or sporting ability. Focus their attention on things that are deeper than looks and sensational lifestyles
- Share the Dove Evolution film with your child and show them that the photographs they see in magazines can be manipulated
- If your child enjoys watching reality TV shows, discuss 'structured reality' and help them understand how much goes into that 'natural' look and how unobtainable it is
- Play the Retouch Roulette game and see how good you both are at spotting the real and airbrushed images