Squeaky Clean Celebs

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The other week I was watching Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff and the panel were discussing celebrities. More specifically the behaviour of celebs and how we as their fans prefer them to conduct themselves. Do we like our celebs to be as Wright termed it “squeaky clean” or do we prefer them to be a little rougher around the edges, more “normal.”

The point was made that it is unfair of us to expect our celebrities to be squeaky clean, to put them up on pedestals from which they are inevitably going to fall. To put them up so high is to risk being disappointed ourselves when they do fall, but is that our fault for putting them up there in the first place? Do we have any right to expect a certain level of behaviour from our actors, actresses, popstars and sports-people?

Certain behaviour is expected from different types of famous people, particularly musicians. Rock stars are supposed to be wild: to drink, smoke and trash hotel rooms. Divas are meant to be, well, like divas. They are expected to be hard to work with, to demand all manner of daft requests, to scream and shout and have childish tantrums because someone forgot to get them a bottled-water. Members of boy bands are expected to be squeaky clean, fresh-faced and only interested in girls.

Whether it’s behaving nicely or badly we all have expectations and are often disappointed when our stars behave in a way that’s contrary to how we anticipate. Does that mean we should discard our way of thinking?

In an ideal world we would all walk through life with no preconceptions at all. We would all take people as we find them and like them for who they are and not for what we like to imagine they are.

But this is not an ideal world. We have expectations and just because we are often let down it doesn’t mean we should cease to expect.

And why shouldn’t we hope for a certain level of behaviour from those above us? These are the people we look up to, the people we admire; the people we respect and aspire to be like.

Down here in the ordinary world of the Average Joe people are cruel and thoughtless. The common man attacks the common man for no other reason than to steal his phone. Ordinary people have nothing and are mean because of it. All we can hope for in our sad little lives is to one day get a halfway decent job that meets the national minimum wage and can just about cover our rising bills. We are in the gutter, looking up. And on looking up we expect to see the stars; we expect to see something better, something to cheer up our grey little day.

We look to celebs as inspiration. We look at them and dream that we could one day be just like them. They were once little people like us but they clawed their way up to become bigger; better. One day a bolt cutter from Salford; the next a classical singer selling albums worldwide. One day a girl from Brighton; the next a model, TV star and author. One day a nobody; the next day a somebody.

We look at these people who were once nothing but are now something and it brightens up our day because it is proof that dreams can come true, no matter who you are. And we imagine that now these people have money and fame that they have magically become better people for it. We imagine that they must be clever and hardworking because of where they’ve got to. We picture them as dedicated and professional, adhering to higher standards. And we expect that their behaviour will somehow be better than ours because they have everything they could ever wish for and so have no reason to be awful.

Yet what do we see: drunkenness, lewdness, drug-use, brawling, adultery, famous men being caught with prostitutes, paedophilia and even in some cases murder. We see our idols acting badly at so many turns in the road; we see them acting just like us, only on a larger scale and it disappoints us because we like to imagine that being rich and famous is so much better than being poor and unknown. We are dreaming of better lives and we look to celebs for examples of what that better life might be like. Yet we see our celebs living lives that are no more impressive than ours. They are not happier or more contented than us. They are just as miserable; just as discontented, looking for ways to escape their lives.

We are in the gutter, looking up, expecting to see stars but what they are showing us is just another gutter. It’s lined with bottles of J’adore, Manolo Blahnik shoes and Dolce and Gabbana wrist watches but it’s still a gutter.

It is about time that those we idolise did behave in a more fitting manner. Whether they like it or not those in the public eye have a duty to lead a positive sort of life. People follow them, copy them, listen to them and are influenced by their words.

We live in a world slowly spinning out of control. No one has any respect for each other. There’s so much anger inside of people.

In the beginning we had our gods but their behaviour was far more atrocious than our own. Then there were pharaohs and high priests and kings. We looked up to them until we realised they were no better than us. Now we have parliaments and assemblies and councils. They have failed us with their broken promises and lies and so we turn as we always do to those who seemed blessed with far greater talents than the ability to make laws or utter proclamations. We turn to those with the power to touch our hearts, to awaken our imaginations, to lift our souls: the singers, the actors, the writers, athletes and beautiful people. They have a kind of magic, an ability to inspire us and speak to us in ways that kings and politicians can not. We look to them to guide us, to teach us better ways, but if they can’t, if they won’t, is there any hope for us?

Is it too much to expect? Is it too much pressure?

If you can’t cope with a little pressure you really have no business putting yourself out there for all to see. So I say suck it up, stop whining and stop behaving so stupidly. Whether you are a singer, actor, writer or athlete you have been given an amazing ability but it wasn’t meant for you alone. It wasn’t meant for you to use it as an excuse for poor behaviour.

There was a time when good behaviour was encouraged and applauded and behaving badly could lose a famous person all the respect they had gained in their careers. Now, it would seem that bad behaviour is the norm. Drunkenness, adultery, drugs and other criminal offences are what we can expect from our celebs and that is not only considered normal but it is what a lot of people seem to prefer. One of the panellists on the Wright Stuff said it was preferable that celebs were not squeaky clean. Celebs should be “real.”

Whatever that means.

I know what he meant. It is a sad fact that when we hear a famous person saying they don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or cheat on their spouses that we raise our eyebrows in disbelief. We believe that everyone who appears squeaky clean is in fact just pretending; that it is an act, that it is not “real.” When we hear famous couples extolling the joys of marriage we wait gleefully to see them cheat on each other and split up. We actually seem to want our celebs to fail, mess up or be brought low in some way. We wait with our cameras at the ready for the teetotaller to fall drunkenly out of a taxi, we wait for the happily married man to be discovered tied to a bed surrounded by rent boys or the non-smoker to be seen shooting up in some dirty back alley. This is the behaviour we expect and want to see and if we don’t get it we are actually disappointed.

Bad behaviour is seen as more “real” to us because it is behaviour we can understand. It is a sad fact that good (nice) behaviour is viewed with suspicion, fear and even anger.

Look at Cliff Richard. Here is a popstar with something of a squeaky clean image. He’s a well-known Christian, a hardworking and dedicated individual. His image is that of a gentleman. He is nice and polite. He is loved by middle-aged women and little old ladies. As far as I know he doesn’t smoke or do drugs. I imagine he partakes of a little wine now and then but he’s certainly not known for being a boozer. He is someone to look up to and admire. He’s an all round good guy. He doesn’t go around brawling, punching cameramen, using racist or homophobic language. He’s worked hard all of his life and been very successful yet he has been the butt of many jokes due to his image of being a bit boring (i.e. nice) and there has been an almost unhealthy obsession with the man’s love life and sexuality. He’s a single man and never been married and so for many years the media have speculated that he must be gay. They want him to be gay. They actually want to catch him in some compromising situation so that they can ruin his nice guy image. Why? What’s wrong with being nice?

Apparently everything.

Look at the fuss that was made over Britney Spears. When she first came on the scene she made a big deal about the fact she was a virgin and at first people seemed to admire her for it. It was sweet and proper and commendable, but then after awhile people got sick of that image (when I say people I mean the media). Cute Popstar Still a Virgin is not a story that sells papers. It was expected of her that she lose her virginity, lose the sweet little girl image and become someone who would sell stories. And she did as expected. She lost her virginity and tried to discard her sweet little girl persona, married some weird guy then divorced him five minutes later. Then it was all head shaving, putting on weight and apparently going crazy. She certainly sold some stories then. The media revelled in her behaviour and at the same time castigated her for it. Rather hypocritical considering that this was what they expected…no…wanted of her. They didn’t want the sweet little virgin that young girls could look up to and be like; they wanted…I don’t quite know what they wanted but what they got was a young girl who quite frankly needed some help and all she got was flashbulbs going off in her face.

There are some very strange people in the world if you ask me; people who seek out the heroes and the idols and seek to bring them down. I know that celebs are just people too and that we are all flawed individuals but it is a peculiar fact that we seem to admire people because they are flawed. We should admire people despite their flaws not because of them, and if people appear to be flawless we shouldn’t rush so gleefully to discover what vices they might be hiding. We may be fooling ourselves, imaging certain people to be without flaws, putting them up on pedestals and extolling their virtues but sometimes illusion is necessary. We need heroes. We need idols. We need something to look up to, to aspire to be, because if we’re not looking up we’re looking down. And if we’re looking down we’ll never see the opportunities or chances standing right before us.

So until Roger Federer turns out to be a coke-snorting, lying, cheating, adulterous gun-toting pimp with a dungeon under his house filled with whips and chains I will continue to view him and others like him with admiration.

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