It’s Time To Turn Our Backs On False Gods
By: Allison Kugel
“You shall have no other Gods before me” – Exodus 20:2-3
Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Les Moonves… R. Kelly. Yes, I said it. We’re in quite a pickle, aren’t we? As a culture we have allowed mass media to convince us that those who become public figures in entertainment are idols to be worshipped. I know, I know… not you. You’re above it all, but let’s say for the sake of argument that most people aren’t. Fair?
Following your favorite celebrities on social media, buying magazines when they grace the cover, tuning in to watch awards shows, hanging up posters on your bedroom wall as a teenager. Shall I go on?
The past year or so has left society reeling with the realization that many famous people are deeply flawed and sometimes do some very bad things. But why the shock and awe, and devastation? They’re only human, many of them with severe problems. As a culture, we have a bigger problem. We’ve allowed ourselves to worship false idols. Going back to the days of the O.J. Simpson trial that transfixed our nation, we couldn’t believe that this handsome, charismatic football superstar could actually be just a person who most likely committed a heinous crime.
Did you know the construct of “celebrity” is really only about 100 years old? That’s a drop in the bucket. Prior to 1920, there were no radios in people’s homes. The first “talkie” film was around 1927, and televisions weren’t in homes until 1949. Up until the 20th century you could go to theatre, or read a book, magazine or newspaper. The media was a fraction of the size it is now, and people were community oriented. The typical family was focused on their home, their community, their church or synagogue and their neighbors.
With the relatively recent constructs of record companies, movie studios, television studios and social media, executives needed to mythologize their stars in order to commoditize them. They needed to strategize ways to make you love entertainers so you would purchase albums and movie tickets, and tune into television programs. It generates advertising and sales revenue.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with enjoying entertainment. In fact, I believe that the arts are nourishing to the spirit and play an important role in our existence. But idol worship has led us down a murky path. In my journalistic work interviewing entertainers, I have tried to use that platform to peel away the celebrity veneer and show the person’s humanity to readers. Maybe I have succeeded at this or maybe I have failed. That is up to you to decide. You’re entitled to your opinion either way.
With my son, I try to impart to him that although he can enjoy great music, theatre, film and television, the people he should be looking to as his role models are the people who touch his life on a daily basis; the people who care for him and his well being. The only being that we pray to and worship in our home is G-d.
For that is as it should be.