Celebrity Worship Syndrome

Michael Tchong

Ellen DeGeneres Oscars selfie
It was a shot sent around the world. At the 2014 Academy Awards, Ellen DeGeneres took a selfie, surrounded by Hollywood’s elite. The photograph was retweeted 3.4 million times, setting an all-time Twitter record. It was yet another powerful example of “Celebrity Worship Syndrome,” a growing American affliction.

How did America get so obsessed with all things celebrity? Here’s the timeline:

  • The National Enquirer – In 1967, The National Enquirer refocused its editorial on celebrities, which many believe may well have been the inflection point.
  • People Magazine – In 1974, People magazine debuted, accelerating the trend. People soon grew up to be Time Inc.’s most profitable property, with annual revenues of $1.5 billion at its peak.
  • Entertainment Tonight – On September 14, 1981, Entertainment Tonight debuted its first broadcast, bringing daily tabloid-style reporting to television.
  • TMZ – It was the celebrity news website TMZ, debuting on November 8, 2005, that became to symbolize the global institutionalization of celebrity watching. TMZ.com was created as joint venture between AOL, at the time owned by Time-Warner and Telepictures International, a division of Warner Bros. By September 2007, TMZ had already become the fifth most popular news site, with 10.5 million unique U.S. visitors, by virtue of its chatty, and stalkerish, coverage of the Hollywood set. At the time, TMZ.com dwarfed its entertainment-news rivals, besting all non-portals, save for CNN and MSNBC.
Courtney Love iPhone paparazziPixel Paparazzi: Courtney Love captured with a smartphone outside The Mercer Hotel in New York’s SoHo district on Friday, July 13, 2007 at 6pm. This image, taken by yours truly, is the first paparazzi photo ever taken with an iPhone.

In 2003 New Scientist magazine reported that one-third of Americans were suffering from an affliction it dubbed celebrity-worship syndrome or CWS.

The future of Celebrity Worship Syndrome can only be imagined. With billions around the world armed with smartphones, digicams and camcorders, boasting ever-higher-resolution, expect an explosion in crowdsourced, celebrity-obsessed reportage.

Ruled by the Voyeurgasm Ubertrend, and spurred by a global social networking frenzy, it looks like the Celebrity Worship Syndrome is poised for a major unveiling.

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Michael Tchong

Michael is a professional trend forecaster and founder of four ahead-of-the-wave startups. He’s also a top-rated innovation and trends speaker, and an adjunct professor of innovation and social media at the University of San Francisco. Follow him by clicking these buttons: