Power of media celebrities
How influential are media celebrities?
ACELEBRITY, US television host Jon Stewart is now the world’s most influential man, beating the world’s richest man Microsoft chairman Bill Gates into second place.
Although the claim is being made by an online men’s lifestyle magazine, www.askmen.com, the mainstream media are not far behind in recognising the influence that media celebrities have on the general population.
The magazine, which polled 500,000 men for the survey, said that Stewart’s The Daily Show, a toprated satirical show on TV, was “once dubbed the ‘ fake news’, but these days it has become our youths’ most trusted source of information and its host the most trusted man in America”. Not bad for a show that pokes fun at politicians and newsmakers.
The magazine’s list of 49 of the world’s most influential men featured a large number of entertainment and sports celebrities as well as entrepreneurs and politicians.
As an indication of the rise in influence of media celebrities, US President Barack Obama slipped from last year’s No.3 to a distant No.21, below media hotshots like Conan O’Brien and George Clooney.
In Japan, magazines regularly find through surveys that many Japanese students are more familiar with singer Namie Amuro than who the prime minister of the day is.
In writing about celebrities and media stars, one of the assumptions made is that the former are influential people. We watch them on TV and at the movies, we listen to them on radio, we read about their loves, we marvel at their lives, we are shocked by their excesses as well as their normality. Celebrities lead the way in fashion, looks and even opinions.
Some people love their celebrities so much that they not only copy the way they dress, but even want to copy the way they look.
A fan tweeted in July that she was getting head-to-toe plastic surgery to look like Kim Kardashian as her husband “worships” the reality TV star.
Plastic surgeons have said in interviews that many of their clients visit their clinics with requests to look like the Hollywood star of their choice. A 2009 survey of plastic surgeons revealed that they most wished to look like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
Jolie’s lips, eyes and cheeks were highly sought-after among female patients while Pitt was popular among male patients for his abs, nose and various other body parts.
This is more prevalent than being just about Hollywood and the US; South Korean stars are also widely sought after as samples in their countrymen’s quest to look good, as are other Asian stars.
A popular television show attracts millions of viewers in the United States alone. Once it is syndicated, the audience could double or even triple in size. The celebrities who star in these shows exert considerable influence among their viewers.
Take The Oprah Winfrey Show for instance. On air since 1986, its longterm success has not only made the talk show’s star Oprah Winfrey a billionaire, it has helped to catapult her into No.64 on the Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people.
The respected business magazine has Winfrey rubbing shoulders with presidents, prime ministers, royalty, multi-billionaire entrepreneurs and the Catholic Pope.
If Winfrey likes a book, she features it on her book club, and the book is then in bestseller heaven. In some cases, sales went up by more than a million copies.
Even Winfrey’s guests have become celebrities in their own right. Dr Phil McGraw and Dr Mehmet Oz have gone on to host popular medical-related shows of their own – Dr Phil and Dr Oz – under the profitable auspices of Winfrey’s production company, of course.
Sports celebrities in popular games like tennis, golf, football, American football and NBA basketball are also influential thanks to the high spectator and live broadcast TV audience figures. The American football Super Bowl in 2009 was watched by over 100 million viewers in the United States.
Celebrities are such trendsetters that hard-headed businessmen are willing to pay them millions of dollars to endorse their products.
In 2000, golfer Tiger Woods signed a five-year endorsement deal with Nike that netted him US$100mil (RM312mil). Singer Madonna was paid more than USS$10mil (RM31mil) in 2005 for modelling Versace’s new collection.
These businessmen who are so willing to pay big sums of money to celebrities for their endorsements would probably have done their homework and found that academic research has shown that the general populace are indeed affected by what they read and watch.
In the 1940s and 50s, the Magic Bullet theory of mass communication was popular among researchers who believed that a media message would, like the bullet from a gun, be shot straight into the audience’s head.
In the 1950s and 60s, other researchers found that many of the subjects in their studies actively search for information that tallies with what they already believe and are then reinforced in their views. Yet others have hypothesised that media messages flow to the masses via opinion leaders.
Whatever the theory, they all agree that mass communication is a powerful tool with great influence on the people who are exposed to them. Celebrities are very capable wielders of the tool.
Becoming a celebrity is fast becoming a career option or hope for the young (and even the old, some would say), spoken of in the same breath as becoming a doctor or a lawyer. There is no greater tribute to the influence of media celebrities as this.
Calling the shots: Comedian US television host Jon Stewart is now the world’s most influential man, according to an online men’s lifestyle magazine.