Those superstars want your bucks

I hate the term “superstar” and its many extensions. Either you’re a star or you’re not. Ditto athlete, fashion model, actor, actress, musician.

“Celebrity” is even messier. Some of them seem to be famous for no reason at all.

Yet many of them lend their faces and voices to the advertising you see. It’s more than mere endorsements. Some of them become the front for the product. And there they are, speaking directly to you like an old friend.

Well, you know who they are, even if they don’t have a clue about you. We buy into the fiction anyway.

Let’s get down to business. (Sorry for the pun — you see how these money things are everywhere?)

  • Name a “superstar” musician, actor or actress, television host or performer, fashion model, and athlete. What special qualities would you assign to each? Which one would you argue is most important to society? Why?
  • Would you say they’re good role models when it comes to money? (After all, they’re being paid tons for what they do best.)
  • Why do you think they’re getting all that dough, anyway? (Hint: in the end, it’s not exactly for the reasons you would initially suspect, the musical or acting talent, good looks, or points scored. I’ll explain in a bit.)
  • Assuming you watch some television during the week, and it’s not all Public Broadcasting, what is your favorite television commercial these days? Why? And the one you find most annoying?
  • How much of the commercial is about the product or service itself? How much appears to be “something else,” such as music, comedy, drama, atmosphere. What are the hidden messages?
  • Do you ever catch yourself humming an advertising jingle? Do you use that product? How about repeating a line from a commercial? (Who was it who once asked us, “Where’s the beef?”)
  • Which jingles and commercials do you hear children repeating?
  • What other advertising phrases or images come to mind?

Mind-boggling, isn’t it?

Each of these commercials preaches at us, conveying messages that may not be obvious. Superstars are showered in riches because they are the “high priests” of consumer culture. One way or another, they get the rest of us to spend on the products wrapped around them — brands that make us believe we’re buying adulation, popularity, athletic prowess, sexuality, a mansion by the sea, or maybe even extended youthfulness.

Now what about all those folks sporting clothing adorned with the logo of their favorite hometown team?

Count your mail or email for a week, and note how much of it is advertising. Some, like your favorite catalogs, may be desired; the bulk is probably a nuisance. (Have you discovered it’s in your power to throw these pieces away, unopened?) There will be a few bills. Maybe even a personal card or letter. So what’s the score?

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