What is a hero?

The recent passing of Whitney Houston spawned international mourning and remembrance for the troubled singer. Her funeral was televised on multiple networks along with an Internet broadcast. Whenever a star like this dies, people make comments like, “She meant so much to me,” or “She was my hero.”

The idea that a singer or any other celebrity could be somebody’s hero seems outlandish, but many would count a celebrity as a huge influence on their lives.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of a hero is “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.” That describes exactly none of the celebrities who can be found in a tabloid. There’s no reason to idolize these people. The only thing they contribute to society is some form of entertainment that can be consumed at a price.

Kim Kardashian is a weekly fixture in all celebrity news. At this point, most people don’t remember why she’s famous in the first place. Let me refresh your memory, dear reader. She made a sexually explicit tape with Ray J., who is the younger brother of pop singer Brandy. Now every time she sneezes or gains 10 pounds, we have to read about it. On top of that, both Ray J. and Kim Kardashian have had multiple television shows.

The other day I was talking with some friends about the upcoming Batman film, and something was said about Anne Hathaway playing Catwoman in the film. My friend replied, “I hate her. She’s horrible.” The rest of the girls in that conversation universally agreed. I was shocked. How could anybody hate someone they’ve never met? I inquired further—”Why do you hate her?”— only to be met with a swift reply of, “In general, she’s just horrible.”

I don’t understand why celebrities cause so much controversy and inspire outrage from the public. Their contribution to the world is limited at best, yet every word they say is dissected and debated. Before writing this article, I decided to browse a couple of gossip sites to get a feel for what I would be talking about. I can say that they are, without a doubt, the downfall of society.

Still, these sites are hugely successful, and they show no sign of going away. What makes all of this so sad is that people, who are real heroes who contribute positive things to the world, largely overlooked. Most people couldn’t identify one Nobel Prize recipient, but many people could name Lindsay Lohan’s last five boyfriends.

The biggest question is “why?” Why did making the world a better place become secondary to celebrity gossip? Why did Whitney Houston become more newsworthy than the Dalai Lama?

While there’s no concrete answer, the smoking gun is held by none other than we. We, the consumers, demand this type of news, and the celebrity news outlets readily supply the content. So instead of trying to better the world, just go make a sex tape. People will care more about that anyway.