Symposium questions celebrity fascination

Students and faculty want to know why America is obsessed with celebrities. “Why is America obsessed with celebrities” is the question of the day and the title of today’s Searchlight Symposium from 5 to 7 p.m. in Smith Hall 104.

Students will hear about celebrity obsession from guest speakers Richard Allen, a radio-TV-film professor, and Adam Schiffer, a political science assistant professor, and can participate in an open-question forum, said John Wood, founder of the biannual event that started in 2006.

Allen, who has worked as a contributing writer for numerous soap operas, including “Days of our Lives” and “One Life to Live,” said he will offer a creative perspective to accompany Schiffer’s scholarly view.

“It’s important to realize that the media can manipulate you if you’re not aware,” Allen said. “Manipulation by the media would be less pervasive if people were more media literate.”

People aren’t attracted to a dramatic event as much as they’re attracted to the personality involved, Allen said.

“The media builds up what we know about certain personalities,” he said. “They take people who are already famous and create celebrities out of them by offering more and more information about their personal lives.”

From a political angle, America’s obsession is affecting how people look at politicians by making them into celebrities, Schiffer said.

“The press has taken over as the key decision-maker in choosing party nominees,” Schiffer said. “It’s important to take a look at our nation’s priorities particularly rendered by major news organizations.”

Searchlight Symposiums encourage students to take a look at issues rarely discussed in class and give an “interdepartmental exchange,” Wood said.