Starstruck Teens

When does the adulation of a celebrity cross the line? How might a parent know that a child's identity as a fan has become self-destructive? It's hard to tell, as the admiration of musicians, actors, and athletes is a normal part of growing up in the West. In Michael Gross' recent Starstruck: When A Fan Gets Close To Fame, the author describes his own celebraholism as well as the behavior of other fans who collect celebrity autographs and mementos:
People who psychoanalyze collecting argue that collectors gain a fleeting sense of companionship from acquiring certain objects, and that those experiences of acquisition offer temporary relief from feelings such as shame, loneliness or anxiety.
A teen's admiration becomes addiction when she uses a connection to the celebrity as an escape from pain. Strikingly, the fans Gross describes often call out "I LOVE YOU!" to a celebrity, and the celebrities are primed to answer, "I LOVE YOU, TOO!" What a sham of three life-changing words intended to be exchanged first and foremost with God.

In addition to exploring the strange condition of being starstruck, Gross movingly chronicles his own search for intimacy and belovedness, a search that caused him to turn away from faith and a calling to the ministry. His book provides a bit of wisdom to parents of fans: never scorn or make fun of a teen's adulation. Instead, see the condition as a cry for healing and intimacy.
Our fantasies about celebrity aren't pathetic, however; they're experiences of pathos — because at its root, fandom is an imperfect response to the impulse to love ... That's why every person I'm going to describe in this book is worthy of your attention, even the people that you or I might be tempted to scorn or laugh at. That's why dreams about fame aren't just the little people's way of avoiding humiliation. They're everybody's way of hoping to find the dignity we all deserve.

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