Chris Churchill Saves the World | America is a Country of Losers — Part II
Part II — American Super Losers
As I pointed out in part one of this three parter, America is country made up of losers and the descendants of losers, myself included. Please read the article which fully explains what I mean before criticizing that thesis statement. (I’m picturing a Budweiser soaked microbully from grade school when I say that.)
Continuing from that premise, I will add that this history of loserness caused the very conditions by which America became the birthplace of the uniquely American modern cult of celebrity. Yes there are celebrities elsewhere and there have been celebrities of some kind ever since human communication allowed for legends to spread across an empire. American celebrity is a specific kind of hang-up. I’ll stop short of calling it a mental illness.
The combination of America creating the first giant film studios, having the infrastructure and wealth to jump ahead of the world in radio and television broadcasting, and the perpetual societal reaction to being “losers”, created a special type of fixation on the people on the screen, tube or on the radio. We see them. They are magic. We want to be them or to possess them. Or to be loved by them. Some strange feeling stirs inside the average citizen when they encounter celebrity.
Our wealth created the ability to make celebrities into superheroes with stage shows and special effects. So they’re huge. They’re allure is strong. But now, in modern society, they’re more accessible than ever. AND the internet has given us all the illusion that we could join them on mount Olympus if we just do the right thing on camera.
I have a suspicion that when society reaches a tipping point where such a great number of it’s members, feeling like losers, seek validation for simply being who they are, that that society begins to overvalue those who are famous. They cheer for them. “THAT’S what I want! I want to show them that I’m great!”
So we, like all societies, have our celebrities but unlike most others in the history of humanity, we endow them with so much of our psychic energy that they become distorted, supersized versions of themselves, at least in our eyes. Then, we think, “NOW THAT! THAT is who I want to be like!” And it creates this positive feedback loop that makes bigger and bigger celebrities out of our own insecurities.
The world stares at us. It emulates us. But make no mistake, the world likes to generalize and stereotype what being American is. That’s because we’re a unicorn with a tendency toward psychosis and narcissism. We’re great to watch but not so great to involve ourselves with too deeply.
We invented the cult of celebrity. I mean, yes, celebrity existed before the United States fetishized it but not in its current form. Not even close. Why? Communication is instant and our feeling of alienation is exacerbated by seeing others being celebrated when we could only wish we were.
I’ve heard Howard Stern say that he wanted to get on the radio because the radio was the only thing his dad listened to. So in order to get his dad to really care about him, he had to be on the radio.
(Side thought: The above paragraph makes me wonder if that’s why my own father became a preacher…so that his father, also a preacher, would hear him and respect him?…I could be wrong, dad.)
We’ve all seen the celebrities for whom no amount of fame, adulation, or praise was enough. These people turn to other things, like drugs, sex, alcohol, and other risky behaviors to give them a feeling they can trust to distract them away from the hole in their hearts where a family’s love is supposed to be. It doesn’t matter if their family “loves them strong” or not. Some people, because of that American Loser Syndrome can’t truly accept the love of other individuals and believe that only the adulation of the masses can heal them and validate their very existence.
I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself in the last 14 years and over those years, I began to notice that I’d be able to get glimpses of that feeling that one aspires to when one aspires to fame. Those small, fleeting moments when I realized that a niece or nephew obviously thought that I was a super great uncle. During those moments, I feel what I had always hoped being famous would feel like. (In the intervening years, I’ve been able to build on that until, lo and behold, I’m almost able to feel love in the same way healthy people do.)
Maybe the problem is that fame was never the thing. Rather, understanding that you are fantastic and important, truly understanding that. Actually being able to accept the love that us offered you. Of course, that’s the thing.
America, as a nation, has a complex. We feel we aren’t “good enough” unless we’re famous, celebrated by masses of strangers, caricatured by admirers, or held up as “unique among the nations of the world”. America and it’s Loser Syndrome has a hard time understanding the value of love. We don’t feel love. We feel attention, though. That’s why America chases and worships celebrity. Like a drug, it’s not because celebrity is fun anymore but because it fills the ever increasing hole.
Like John Lennon sang, in reference to his own childhood neglect, that: “They didn’t want you so they made you a star”. I think that about sums up our collective syndrome, as a country.