Celebrity Worship and Sacrifice: Religion by Another Name

On this week’s New Sabbath Project Radio Show on CIUT, we’re talking Celebrity Worship and Sacrifice. Hope you’ll join us and write in to join the conversation.

Years ago I read a lovely book by Tom Robbins called another Roadside Attraction. In it Jesus comes back to us. Yes it’s true…the second coming happens. Thing is no one seems to take it very seriously. You see if I remember correctly, and this was ages ago for me, the only way that anyone could treat this ‘miracle’ was to turn it in to a shallow pop culture experience, a freak show. Jesus had to be reduced to the flavor of the month and as all flavours go so goes the lord. He is humiliated and disposed of, just like David Lee Roth, Paris Hilton, and countless political middleweights.

In Joseph Epstein’s writings on ‘Celebrity Culture’, he writes that fame is something one earns while celebrity is something one cultivates. In essence Jesus didn’t have a good publicist. He goes on to say that fame is based on achievement, celebrity on broadcasting that achievement.

Why have we evolved in to a state of celebrity worship over time? Are we filling the religious void by turning our eyes away from the transcendent and instead locking them on to the supermarket trashbloids at the check out counter?Tirdad Drakhshani itemizes our obsession with celebrity through the modern day, secular ‘relic’. A lock of Justin Beiber’s hair fetched 40,668 dollars on Ebay Britney Spears chewing gum-14,000. And this is my favourite — William Shatner’s kidney stone-that went for 25,000 dollars.

From relics we move to ritual sacrifice, Richard Pryor the famed comedian literally went up in flames. Heath Ledger died alone in his hotel room at the height of his fame, for that we gave him an Oscar. From sacrifice we have one last station of the cross as it were, redemption. John Travolta is much more interesting post-Saturday Night Fever when he fell put out a few dud’s and then promptly fell off the star-map. He revived his career with Quentin Tarantino’s help in Pulp Fiction. To Hear Tarantino tell it. He ‘remembered’ Travolta and thought he would make a great dancing ‘hit man’ for the film. He called Travolta up and they took a walk in L.A. To his amazement no one recognized the one time star. That just made Tarantino want him in the movie more. The film got made Travolta was back and making twenty million per flick-all was forgiven. I interviewed him around that time.

We were given literally three minutes each on the promotional junket
for a god-awful movie called The General’s Daughter. I decided to ignore the movie and ask him purely personal questions. My last one tickled him, I asked, “What effect has having millions of dollars in that last while had on your ability to form friendships. He leaned forward and said that this had been the hardest thing for him because so many had seemed
genuine and in the end they just stabbed him in the back but the that
the good news was that having been there in back he has always had a
small group of loved ones, disciples as it were, that were there for him
regardless. From rags to riches to rags to riches.

In the end his story is about redemption, and you and I, the little people, get to stand in judgment as we wait to cash out , will he be returned to the pantheon or will we toss him on to the scrap heap of broken dreams. Today we’ll dig around in the rubble of this notion of celebrity worship and why it means so much to us.

Be well and I look forward to hearing from you.

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