The Burden of Celebrity
"I'm not an actor! I'm a movie star! I'm afraid." This declaration was made by the terrified Alan Swann, a swashbuckling Errol Flynn-like film star in Richard Benjamin's heart-warming "My Favorite Year" (1982). He had just learned moments before show time that the program he had gotten into wardrobe for was to be live television. When Benjy Stone, a long-time fan and young studio employee, tried to encourage Swann by reminding him of his previous successful films, the star replied, "Those are movies. Look at me! I'm flesh and blood. Life-size, no larger. I'm not that hero! Never was."
The dichotomy between hero and celebrity has always been with us. Ted Koppel recently noted in a baccalaureate address at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., that the dynamic role of television has caused our "false gods," or celebrities, to seem even more important than they did years ago.
We in the church—especially those of us in the Christian music industry—would do well to pay attention as our own celebrities struggle with their fame. The acknowledgment by two popular Christian musicians of an adulterous relationship (CT, June 20, 1994, p. 64) underscores the high stakes involved in the struggle. Regardless of whether they sought the burden of integrity that comes with fame, it fell on their shoulders the first time they performed before an audience. Fame, whether in religious or nonreligious circles, always comes with a high price tag.
All people successful in "public life" also have the public trust invested in them. The NBA's Charles Barkley may not desire to be a role model, but he is. Politicians may wish to avoid "the character issue," but they cannot. If you choose a profession that places you in the public eye, you ...