30 May 2010

Living Vicariously

The other day, I was in the bus that heads to the city, coming from the province. These buses usually have television sets that are mounted on the front, so that they can entertain the passengers while on the road.

And the other day, I had an interesting thought while passively watching what was being broadcast. It was a show about celebrities, and only about celebrities. It seems that this is a weekly show, and that the sole purpose of this show is to update the populace about the private lives of the celebrities here in the Philippines.

Now why would I want to watch that show? I could care less about what Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher do in private, or whether Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are still going strong, or whether she was already totally brainwashed into Scientology. But apparently, the people here in the Philippines are so interested in these people.

So, what are the topics that they are tackling? Well, they were interviewing celebrities over the phone with respect to their private lives. There was one celebrity couple in which the wife apparently is pregnant, with their second kid. And the show was asking them what they would want to name the baby. Come on, I don't care. Another celebrity was also pregnant, and she went to New York City to give birth, and the show was asking her what she is doing while waiting to deliver the baby, and apparently, she is doing some yoga. Why would I be interested in that?

There are so much more tidbits of information about these people, and all are supposedly broadcast so that every person in the Philippines will know that this couple did this in San Diego, that couple had a fight in Manhattan, this singer has a show in Las Vegas, and so on.

So I wondered whether this behavior is also seen in North America, and I am leaning to the conclusion that no, people are less interested in the celebrities there than here. And I suppose it has something to do with one's wealth.

If one is relatively wealthy, such as the average population in North America and Europe, one has disposable income, and one has the ability to do things with it. One can travel, one can have fast and shiny cars, one can have big houses, among others. If one can do it, everything is fine. However, if one is living below the poverty line (which I think is still $1.25 USD per day), then one doesn't have this ability. However, the desire is still there. And one way that one can satisfy this desire is by knowing about people who actually has the means to do it, such as celebrities. Why would you care about what a celebrity does while waiting to deliver a baby (in New York City nonetheless) if you yourself has the means to do it? Living vicariously has plenty to do with this, I think. If one has no means to live a desirable lifestyle, then all one can do is observe the people who can.

(House in La Candelaria, from my Bogotá, Colombia Series)


  1. I found the same thing in Latin America - people are fascinated with "stars", local or Hollywood. Yet the culture and the general standard of living are so different...!

  2. Zhu,

    I think it has something to do with what you can and cannot attain. I mean, with developed countries, people typically can attain what the "stars" get, so what's new? For developing countries, that is not the case, and since it's something they cannot attain, then it becomes desirable.

  3. I think celebrity madness (and the madness to know private lives) goes beyond the borders of poverty-stricken countries. Even in the US, two nightly entertainment shows follows right after the prime time news on CBS and NBC. And in those ubiquitous newsstands in Manhattan, magazines that peddle nothing but celebrity gossip and paparazzi photos (People, Us, etc.) gets read my many women sitting on subway trains and buses.

  4. TNP,

    Oh I am not denying that madness in knowing about the lives of celebrities transcend economic and political borders. However, just look at the thing you mentioned: in the US, these shows are post-prime time, while here in the Philippines, it's occupying the mid-afternoon slot of most channels (ABS-CBN and GMA notably). Besides, in other countries, there's many other programs to choose from aside from these celebrity gossip shows (of course, having cable subscription helps), but here, not much.