“I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” – I must confess that I am not an avid viewer of this TV series, yet the guest list is difficult to ignore when a headline participant is MP Nadine Dorries. So a politician is now a celebrity. In an age transformed by multimedia is there some merit in a politician seeking to connect with the wider public through a popular reality show, given polling records demonstrate a worrying lack of political engagement? Certainly this is Ms Dorries’ justification for her briefer than expected sojourn in the jungle. I am confident that the viewers of this programme will now easily be able to identify Ms Dorries on the back benches, which is not the case with the vast majority of our MPs. But are they any the wiser about her political convictions?
The “I’m a celebrity” remit is to entertain not inform, as indeed is any vehicle focussing on celebrity. The public no doubt greatly enjoyed watching Ms Dorries’ trial by ordeal with Bush Tucker. They did not tune in to learn about her thoughts on the European Union or other pressing issues being debated at Westminster. So her celebrity rested purely on her position as an MP, not upon any of her values or beliefs.
And therein lies the problem of celebrity. It is about the surface. A number of high profile people are unwilling participants in this celebrity world – Prince Harry for example finds himself the centre of attention because of an accident of birth. Yet others seek out the lime light. I know nothing about Kim Kardashian yet I am familiar with her name. The Simon Cowell franchise of shows feeds avariciously on the desire of people, of sometimes dubious talent, to be famous, to enjoy a celebrity lifestyle.
The media, particularly the red tops, are integral to this world. They provide the oxygen for celebrity. They are as eager to build an individual’s profile as they are to destroy a reputation. Hubris. And in the hurly burly of seeking the scoop, an individual’s right to privacy can become merely a detail to be overlooked. Leveson revealed the lengths some journalists are prepared to go to in unearthing stories about celebrities. Such was the scandal the News of the World, the market leader in celebrity scoops, was closed to control the contagion.
And contagion it is. When we value an individual for just being famous what does that say about our society? After all, the celebrity culture is only so prevalent because we all, to a greater or lesser extent, are interested. The digital revolution merely offers us the opportunity to gorge ourselves.
Contrast this with our view of Olympians and Paralympians. For a short time this summer we witnessed people from across the world reaching extraordinary levels of excellence in their chosen sport. Our admiration for them was rooted in their work ethic, commitment and dedication. They represented the triumph of substance over surface.
Although the glow of those wonderful weeks is fading fast, it is important to retain the spirit of the games. Life is not just about “bread and circuses”. Life should be about personal integrity and being true to yourself. Virtue should be rewarded. Honesty is the best policy. Even if we struggle to achieve these personal Olympian heights, we should at least aspire. Only in this way will our view of the world of celebrity remain rooted in a clear moral framework enabling us to see it for what it is rather than seeking to become part of it.