From Valentino to Trump to Ansari, we can't stop falling for celebrity fantasies

tags: celebrities, Trump, Oprah

Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author (with Emily Robertson) of “The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools.”

In 1926, Hollywood screen idol Rudolph Valentino died suddenly of complications from a perforated ulcer. In many ways, Valentino was the first modern celebrity. Americans followed every move of “the Latin Lover” with almost manic attention, subscribing to tell-all magazines and Valentino fan clubs.

Almost nobody knew the actual Valentino, who remains an enigma to this day. But they thought they knew him, via his mass-media image, and they always hungered to know more. So when Valentino died, at the too-young age of 31, 50,000 people gathered outside the New York funeral home where his body was being prepared for burial....

American men give top rankings to Kim Kardashian, Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis; for women, it’s George Clooney, Johnny Depp and Denzel Washington.

What’s wrong with a little sexy daydreaming? Nothing, of course — until you meet the actual human being beneath the fantasy, who may bear little or no resemblance to their media-manufactured image. And if we can’t tell the difference, we’re all in trouble.

Witness the election of one Donald J. Trump, whom most Americans knew only as an image in a reality show. Trump himself seems to have a hard time separating image and reality, reportedly telling his staff to view each day in the White House as a television episode where he vanquishes his enemy in the end.

But many other Americans got caught up in the dream, too, confusing @TheRealDonaldTrump (as he calls himself on Twitter) with what they had seen on the screen. On TV, he kicks some butt and gets the job done! He’ll do the same in the White House!

And don’t think liberals are any less vulnerable to the bright lights of celebrity. Consider the new Oprah-for-President fantasy, which took off after her rousing speech at the Golden Globe awards earlier this month. Where Trump is narcissistic, she’s empathetic; where he is ignorant, she is informed. And oh, so woke! She should challenge him in 2020!...

Read entire article at NY Daily News

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