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One of the most popular subjects in the media today is our fascination with celebrities. We scroll through their TikToks, watch their Instagram Lives, view their YouTube videos and binge-watch their reality TV shows. The popular E! reality show, “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” was able to span 20 seasons following a singular family and is the Number 3 E! show of all time, a company that has existed since 1989. Access Hollywood, TMZ and Entertainment Tonight were created just to capture and broadcast the personal lives of celebrities to the world. Today’s culture obsesses over their lives and many aspire to be in their shoes one day. 

This exact same concept of reflecting the idealized lifestyle into mainstream media is nothing new. After World War II, there was a large economic boom due to government war spending which created prosperity for some, while also creating an even larger inequality gap that disadvantaged others. Even though many women had worked in place of men during the war, the end of the war resulted in a push for women to return to their role as homemaker and to nurture a nuclear family. These instabilities within the structure of the American family led to instability in how these households were designed. Desires for stability caused the nuclear family to become prominent throughout the media in the 1950s. Indulging in these lifestyles and looking into their lives makes the audience feel as though they are a part of it and have it as their own. A prominent, well-known example of this kind of family was in the popular sitcom “Leave it to Beaver” in 1957. While now many call it unrealistic, during this time period many Americans desired this type of family. 

Now people desire a wealthier, more free lifestyle that they can’t seem to achieve. Therefore, just as many Americans today tune into “Keeping up with the Kardashians” to view the massive mansions, exquisite parties and expensive cars, 1950s audiences turned on “Leave it to Beaver” to view a financially and socially stable life. In reality, “broken homes” were more common, and the government used these types of TV shows to attempt to reverse this theme. Even though both current programming and older programs like “Leave it to Beaver” illustrate some problems families legitimately face, they do not demonstrate some fundamental issues like poverty and broken homes.

Shows have come out today, such as The D’Amelio Show on Hulu, with the primary goal of exposing the hardships that come with fame. But it is difficult for the audiences not to overlook these factors in celebrities’ lives, particularly because of the halo effect, where the glorification of fame can obscure negative traits and issues. Many celebrities have come forward with their struggles with mental health and even addiction, such as Demi Lovato, yet the public still glamorizes their fame. Every aspect of their private lives is examined for the entire world to see, no matter how personal. This was evident with Khloe Kardashian’s “baby daddy” scandal, where Tristan Thomas cheated on her for the whole world to see. Despite this, many Americans still look to experience the celebrity lifestyle even though they actively witness their struggles. 

In what ways do celebrities represent an ideal lifestyle in 2021? Americans sit painfully through their 9-5 or work tirelessly for hours only to receive minimum wage. Meanwhile, celebrities post themselves lounging by pools, eating expensive meals and flying in private jets. They have the fiscal ability to purchase multiple, excessive vehicles when most Americans can hardly afford to own one. Just existing is often enough for them to be financially secure for a lifetime, as students sit on piles of student loan debt and study throughout the night. 

These same media tactics of displaying an idealized lifestyle to help Americans cope with their societal issues have been used for decades and will likely continue to be used. Media provides a space for the public to step out of reality and into their desired world. Depending on what that might mean for an individual, the media can edit and change the circumstances of a narrative to produce this level of perfection. Life on a TV show is scripted, and celebrities share only their best moments, such as when they purchase their affluent belongings. This strategy to draw in viewers will continue as the media produces content and develop as the idealized lifestyle changes and grows into something new.  It’s important for viewers to understand how the media is manipulated to grasp their attention in order to sell their attention. Companies know that celebrities are one of the main topics that the public, especially younger generations, delves into and considers newsworthy. Therefore, media outlets are willing to manipulate the personal lives of celebrities in order to produce this enticing content.

Gabby Rivas is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at gmrivas@umich.edu