We really are a bunch of celebrity-worshippers.
Don’t deny it, you know it’s true.
Our society is structured around which celebrity is marrying whom, who has children, who (heaven forbid) had a sordid affair, or an even more sordid divorce battle. Brangelina’s on Long Island, Lindsay’s between relationships, Britney’s being Britney, A-Rod’s being pretentious, etc. etc. Even political pundits and others who wouldn’t normally have (willingly) joined the fray have been dragged in. Everyone who has had a few seconds of fame in front of a camera or on a bestseller list is worthy of worship, as far as our society is concerned. Sometimes this brings out the more unsavory elements among us, i.e. the stalkers who can range from the harmless fans to the ones who would literally kill for attention (i.e. Reagan’s almost assassin/Jodie Foster stalker John Hinckley Jr.).
This is not limited to the United States or the Western World, each society has its own, worshipable elite. Shahrukh Khan is a veritable deity in India, and unsurprisingly, Amitabh Bachchan has actually been worshipped as one.
It is just a hair ridiculous, how much we may devote our time to checking the tabloids for the latest, juicy piece of gossip, and how we idolize people who aren’t that different from us (give or take a few million dollars of course). Some aren’t even that worthy of being idolized, like Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, and others who only have a hefty inheritance and a few sex tapes to their name.
With social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, accessing these celebrities is a much easier task. Twitter, especially, eliminates that wall of privacy between celebrities and their devoted throng of followers (for better or worse). Sometimes that means seeing a more human side of a celebrity that makes them feel a bit more real to us, sometimes it means revealing things about the inner workings of their mind that may turn us off to them.
I’m not one to celebrity-worship, and yet I still get just a tad excited when someone “famous” follows me on Twitter. Even though I’m not a fan of celebrity-worship, I idolize a few, although a select few. I think it’s in our nature to have idols, more as something to work towards. I still can’t wrap my head around people who idol worship just because “they’re hot.” That being said, here are my top 10 celebrities (and I use the term very loosely) I would LOVE to meet, and my reasons (in no particular order):
1. Keith Olbermann: My favorite Cornell alum, and possibly one of the most erudite people in the news business today. He has a knack for wearing his heart on his sleeve and showing his feelings about the state of affairs without foaming at the mouth like other similar figures (*cough* Bill O’Reilly *cough*).
2. Rachel Maddow: Takes news to a whole new level of awesome with her laid-back style. She’s also incredibly intelligent, obviously evidenced by her holding a Ph.D and being a Rhodes Scholar.
3. Robin Williams: Genius. I have not seen any actor who can be as wildly funny as he is, while also managing to nail serious roles just as well. Just watching his stand-up routines makes one realize just how ridiculously smart he must be to be able to string together so many (somehow relevant) thoughts together, reaching across disciplines and cultures within the course of maybe a few seconds.
4. Benjamin Carson: To put it simply, I want to be him, but I know I have a long road ahead if I even want to be half of what he is. He is unbelievably humble despite being so skilled at his job, as one of the world’s best pediatric neurosurgeons, and he only reached that position after a lifetime of hardship and discrimination. To fare so well in a field that is so risky speaks volumes about his abilities as a surgeon.
5. Vilayanur Ramachandran: If he doesn’t get a Nobel Prize, I will be thoroughly disappointed. His research on phantom limbs lead to a greater understanding of so-called “mirror neurons.” I highly recommend his book Phantoms in the Brain.
6. Hugh Laurie: Not just because he plays the best doctor on TV, but he also seems like a genuinely nice (and very smart) guy. I vaguely knew of him from a few episodes of Blackadder, but he has been brilliant as House M.D. There’s something about self-deprecating, pathologically understated, and sometimes borderline-inappropriate British humor that I love. He’s also a great pianist.
7. Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna: Undoubtedly one of the best Carnatic vocalists alive today, he has a sense of humility that serves to ground not only himself, but everyone around him. Humility is always a wonderful quality for anyone to possess, let alone people in the limelight. Extra cool fact: he’s very interested in music therapy. Anyone who recognizes the therapeutic significance of music is cool in my book.
8. Kal Penn: I’ll admit, I didn’t think he was that big of a deal, but I guess my prior opinion was colored by his less-than-cerebral character choices (though I LOVED Harold and Kumar). I saw him on Rachel Maddow’s show, and it goes without saying that he is an incredibly smart guy. He definitely has his head in the right place, opting for public service over acting when the opportunity presented itself. It’s great that the Asian-American community has such a famous face as the liaison between them and the White House. I’m not sure if Asian-American health issues are quite his domain, but it would be something well worth addressing (did a paper on it myself for a class).
9. Anthony Bourdain: Undoubtedly the one who gave the culinary experience its spine back after the Food Network lost it, perhaps in a pool of “e.v.o.o” (cannot stand Rachel Ray). Rough, rugged, well-read, and open to all possibilities (except vegetarian fare…something that I think he’s coming around to), he is the everyman’s chef.
10. Norah Jones: One of the few people in the music industry to have not sold out. She has such a beautiful, earthy voice coupled with her great piano-playing abilities, and she’s also probably one of the few people who keeps her music simple, but classy. As much as I love Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey’s ability to add vocal flourishes and riffs with such ease (I’m guilty of trying to do that when I sing…and I’m even more guilty of failing when I try), sometimes it’s nice to just be straightforward.
And one more for good measure…
11. Russell Peters: Master of mimicry, accents, and general humor. A lot of comedians have a knack for nailing accents, but Russell Peters has a knack for integrating various cultural quirks into his act. No, he’s not a racist, he’s an equal-opportunist, picking on any and every group of people (including most notably, Indians). Why? We are all that diverse and sometimes when we look in with another pair of eyes, we can all be that bizarre. Sometimes we just need to laugh at ourselves.
Yes, noticeably absent are people from Bollywood/other Indian cinema. Why? Well I just don’t know what they’re like, they seem mostly full of fluff, and not much else. Maybe when I know more about them, I can make a better judgment call.
So I guess for me, I don’t care how much money a person makes, but a person’s intellectual worth is very important. I don’t mean just degrees and educational pedigree but a general understanding of the world around them. Equally important is one’s humility and devotion to the art or science that they are pursuing. If you can’t be humble, it doesn’t matter how much talent or knowledge you may have, you are not worth being idolized. Yet people will continue to idolize the most pointless people, because of their monetary worth, supposed good looks, and questionable talent.
I guess that’s just how society is, and will be.