We’d all like to think that we treat people equally, even though it’s obvious we don’t. But there are some surprising ways in which we separate ourselves from those much bigger than us.
I actually touched on this before, but only briefly. I think this is another important topic in parasociality not too far from the one we discussed in that blog. To start us off, here’s the quote where I talk about “people mythology”:
“Celebrities of the old years were able to reduce the development of parasociality by creating the veneer of “fake”. Celebrities didn’t seem like people; they seemed like characters, objects in a distant reality. This shielding came with its own disadvantages — the development of the paparazzi is probably the most notable — but for the wide majority of us we could understand that figures like Martha Stewart and Oprah aren’t our friends. They are beings unlike us. They are separate.
The truth, of course, is that such is not the reality. Martha Stewart and Oprah are people, just like us, who live their own lives, have their own relationships, problems, et cetera, not too different from ours. But this separateness is what prevents us from seeing them as part of our lives, which they are not. It is a fake truth which institutes the real truth.”
The idea that I discuss here about Martha Stewart and Oprah is that of the myths of people. You do not talk about your friend or your mother the same way you might talk about Kim Kardashian or Justin Bieber (or insert whatever other well-known figure). The latter are public figures, and that publicity creates a few differences. Firstly, you do not know them — you know of them, and of parts of them, but you do not know them. Secondly — more interestingly — when you do talk about them, you might talk about them the same as you might a work of fiction. The words “Did you see that Kim Kardashian…” come across a lot more like “Did you watch the recent episode where [that character] did…” than if you were talking about a person in your high school class, even if you might use the same verbiage.
Of course, my use of Kim Kardashian here is not coincidental. Good old Kimmy K may be the missing link as to why these myths of people exist. Kim is of course well known primarily for her TV show, which is a reality sketch of her life. It is, in many ways, the same as that fictional TV show. In fact, when we watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians, we often do not even acknowledge that she’s real, because of the way the show is produced.
This is the “veneer of fake” that I mention in the above quote. It can be the TLC cameras like in the case of the Kardashians — it can also be the public music of Justin Bieber, or the magazine interviews of Martha Stewart, or the books of Oprah Winfrey. Each factor we connect with a fictitious element. Each fictitious element brings us farther from seeing people in reality, and closer to seeing people in myth.