“Celebrity & Entertainment Obsession: Understanding Our Addiction”
By Michael S. Levy
Rowman & Littlefield
Lanham, MD, 2015
Author explores celebrity worship
Reviewed by James K. Luiselli, Ed.D., ABPP, BCBA-D
Believe it or not, some psychologists have coined the term Celebrity Worship Syndrome to describe a person’s obsession and life-dominating fascination with movie stars, musicians, athletes and similar high-status performers. There are even rating scales to measure celebrity worship along purported entertainment-social, intense-personal and borderline-pathological dimensions.
Although celebrity and entertainment obsession seems to take many forms, it has not been highly researched or written about extensively. This book offers the perspectives of a clinical psychologist through his personal observations and to a lesser extent, a strong theoretical framework with evidence support.
Michael S. Levy proposes many factors that account for the public’s fascination with celebrity and media stardom. High on his list are “our basic voyeuristic tendencies, our love of beauty, our need for people and our propensity to create idols.”
Furthermore, Levy writes that people are obsessed with celebrity and entertainment to alleviate social isolation. In addition, people have a propensity to engage in celebrity worship because such behavior allows one “to forget about your own life and immerse yourself in a life that you wish you had.”
Yet another influence on celebrity and entertainment obsession presented in the book is children’s early exposure to visual images of body perfection, beauty, cosmetics, and personal attractiveness. This emphasis on appearance, Levy writes, “is a gigantic motif in our current lives and very relevant to our obsession with celebrities.”
From a societal perspective, Levy indicts the entertainment industry for preying on the “universal traits” that compel children and adults towards media obsession. Technological advances, instantaneous communication, enhanced visual effects and mass advertising are some of the influences fueling what he labels “the entertainment machine.”
The book’s main thesis is that people become addicted to celebrities and the entertainment life the same way they get hooked on drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating, and shopping. Levy gives a truncated neurotransmitter pathway explanation of addiction causation and maintenance but to my thinking, little hard science that supports his propositions.
It appears that the book was written for a popular audience and not mental health professionals. Levy is a practicing psychologist, so it would have been informative if he had described a few clients whose celebrity and entertainment obsession was treated according to the addiction model he advances.
In summary, my best description of the book is that it is a loose assembly of the author’s observations, reflections and values concerning people’s attraction to movies, television, music and the entertainers featured in these and other media.
There may be some general interest in this topic and select mental health professionals may want to read the book to explore new territory.
James K. Luiselli, Ed.D., ABPP, BCBA-D, is Chief Clinical Officer, Clinical Solutions, Inc. and North East Educational and Developmental Support Center, Tewksbury, Mass.
By James K Luiselli EdD ABPP BCBA-D