Evolution and Celebrity

For many decades now evolutionary psychologists and biologists have wondered just what is the point of celebrities. As we know, celebrities seem to do very little other than gain media attention, often for the most banal of reasons. All a celebrity has to do is walk down the street for scores of paparazzi, celebrity watches and even ordinary members of the public to be mesmerised by them.

Some evolutionary psychologists have argued that the modern celebrity is merely a modern mutation of the medieval fool or jester, someone whose sole purpose in life is to be an idiot for others to laugh at. Although, this theory has some credibility, especially in the amount of media attention celebrities get, far in excess of what their otherwise mediocre talents, abilities and looks would merit, there are problems with the theory.

The main problem with the Court Jester Theory of Celebrity – as it is known – is that the celebrities themselves appear unaware of it. For a good many celebrities see themselves as stylish trendsetters, or in the more deluded of cases as a form of public intellectual whose utterances on the issues of the day are wise, profound and meaningful and not the utterly bland superficial meaningless waffle it actually is. Critics of the Jester theory argue that if celebrities really are evolved jesters, then they would be funnier than they actually are rather than merely pathetic.

Other theorists argue that celebrities are a warning to the rest of us that if we do not stop deluding ourselves over our own lack of talent, looks or special abilities then we too will end up having to endure the mind-numbing tedium of the celebrity lifestyle. Which is a form of existence where our every moment is subject to media scrutiny interpretation and – often – condemnation. This theory argues that the wealth accumulated by celebrities, despite their glaring obvious lack of the talent or ability to earn such rewards, is a way of compensating them for this role they have to play as a warning to the rest of us.

This again would explain some of the more bewildering aspects of the modern celebrity lifestyle, but yet again, it leaves questions unanswered. Such questions as why the celebrities themselves seem unaware of this role they play. However, the observation that one of the prime characteristics of the celebrity is the complete lack of self-awareness they exhibit goes some way towards countering this objection. Some evolutionary psychologists claim this inherent self-unawareness is an adaptive behaviour that enables the celebrity to continue in the lifestyle although it makes them look like complete self-obsessed narcissistic lunatics.

Some have argued that the very fact that the celebrity exists in the manner it does shows that human evolution has now run out of ideas and cannot be arsed any longer. These evolutionary biologists claim modern civilisations where celebrities live and prosper are therefore evolutionary dead ends. So that the evolutionary pressures that would prevent such a mutation of a celebrity from surviving in fact enable them to prosper and occupy a role in the human ecosystem that would normally be taken by a far more deserving example of humanity in a properly functioning ecosystem.

Many would find this theory difficult to counter.