We “regular people” have a perplexing relationship with celebrities like movie stars and musicians. After the tragic deaths of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Prince, hundreds and thousands of people flooded the singers’ homes and other locations, leaving sentimental offerings behind. Others cried as though they had lost a family member, and many may have felt that way. This outpouring of emotion seemed to ignore the fact that, while they were alive, the celebrities had sometimes acted in ways that were troubling.

But actors and musicians have a way of offering fans a poetic image of themselves, resulting in fans who idolize them, sometimes to the point of dismissing their flaws.

Whitney Houston once showed up to her own birthday party several hours late, as fans stood in line for hours, waiting for the diva. They would have become irate if someone else had treated them that way, but because she was able to serenade us with a voice that left us weak, vulnerable, and crying uncontrollably, all was forgiven.

Many fans devote themselves—or, worse, profess their love—to a celebrity. They might not be able to fully adore their parents, or forgive siblings for past mistakes, or attend a family member’s wedding. But they will fight in earnest, change any behavior, and make every effort to meet their favorite celebrity. The fan might forget a monumental event, but if they hear the lyrics to a song, even for the first time in 16 years, they can remember every word and even recall where they were when they first heard it.

Musicians and actors have a profound psychological impact on us; in fact, some artists say they wrote certain songs so that children could be conceived. And many people cannot help but idolize celebrities; they engage in behaviors that are forbidden or downright disgusting, something that the average psychologically healthy person would never think of doing, and they get rewarded for it. Very few “normal” people would expose their body parts like singers Chris Brown, Janet Jackson or Britney Spears purposefully did, for the whole world to see.

It is easy to become enthralled with certain celebrities who offer us the ability to look for creative ways to overcome adversity. Many musicians sing powerful words accompanied by enticing rhythms and catchy choruses. These combinations offer many fans a sense of encouragement, which can lead to a strong connection to the song that changes their personal narrative, for better or worse.

For example, leading up to his rematch with Andy Ruiz, current heavyweight champion Antony Joshua appeared obsessed with singer Femi Kuti’s song Fight to Win. And for good reason. The song not only offered Joshua inspiration during his rigorous training, but Joshua felt that the song’s symbolic meaning gave him an edge even before he climbed into the ring with Ruiz.

Many songs have lyrical themes that can be very meaningful to the listener. Never Would Have Made It by Marvin Snapp could have meaning for someone overcoming an illness; Yolanda Adams’ Through The Storm could resonate with the fan who had lived in poverty and endured much suffering before becoming successful. Or rapper L.L Cool J’s song I am Bad might be the anthem for a person who had long suffered from low self-esteem but who now had enough strength to challenge any obstacle Fans and Celebrities Have a Complicated.

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Songs have also been cited as the inspiration for negative, even terrible, behavior. In the late 1990s, Curtis Lee Walker and Denziss Jackson killed Milwaukee police officer William A. Robertson. According to the men, they were inspired by the late Tupac Shakur’s lyrics in the song “N Gatz We Truss,” in which the rapper glorified killing police officers. One of the men justified his actions by saying he could not get the rapper’s song out of his head.

Another young man, Ronald Ray Howard, was sentenced to death in the late 1990s after killing a Texas state trooper. Howard said that a song on Tupac’s 2PACALYPSE NOW CD played a major role in his decision to kill the officer.

And musicians are not the only celebrities known to have enormous influence over their fans. Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer was an up-and-coming actress in the late 1980s who had been on a TV comedy called My Sister Sam. She appeared to be a devoted actress, who not only brought passion to her work but managed to summon the same enthusiasm when connecting with her fans. Unfortunately, she overlooked what in retrospect seems like tell-tale signs of danger in Robert John Bardo, who was only 19 but had already been arrested multiple times and had undergone treatment for bipolar disorder Fans and Celebrities Have a Complicated.

Bardo repeatedly sent letters to Schaeffer over the course of several years, even going as far as showing up at the studio where she filmed the sitcom My Sister Sam. Bardo was turned away by security, but he later returned to the studio, this time with a knife. Once again he has turned away, and he seemed to move on, returning to Tucson and his life there.

That is until he watched a show in which Schaeffer appeared in bed with another actor. After seeing the scene, Bardo’s obsession turned darker. He hired a private detective to locate Schaeffer, who he said had now become a “Hollywood whore.” Armed with a gun, Bardo made his way to the actor’s home. When she answered the door, he shot her in the chest at point-blank range, killing her almost instantly Fans and Celebrities Have a Complicated.

Thankfully, most fans do not resort to such extremes. But without a doubt, both celebrities and their fans contribute to a sometimes sordid, yet usually joyful, relationship. Celebrities count on fans to provide them with the lifestyle they crave or have grown accustomed to Fans and Celebrities Have a Complicated.

And when fans no longer hold artists in high esteem, many say they have become suicidal or vengeful, looking for ways to get back at those fans or other artists they feel have taken their place. And fans crave the gifts that celebrities offer, knowing that very few will ever reach their level; merchandise from megastars, such as Michael Jordan, becomes a representation of the fan’s status if they can afford his clothing and their friends are not able.

Fans and celebrities will likely never coexist in a “regular” setting. Most celebrities will never come to their fans’ homes and have dinner or attend their weddings, unless the celebrity has ulterior motives, promoting their career or image. But rest assured, they need us just as much as we need them.

The Impact of Popular Culture on the Mentality of Youth

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