Jalena, Brangelina, Twilight and the Rest of Us

Kristen Stewart of "Twilight" fame p...

Kristen Stewart of “Twilight” fame plays on the vampire mystique at the 82nd Academy Awards, March 7, in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I told you to guard your carnal treasure. You practically “chucked” it at him.” ~ Win a Date with Tad Hamilton


After the United States’ presidential election, a big story broke. Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez went splitsville. It was “breaking news” on some networks. Is it really our business to care at all?

Will the “Twilight” on-screen/off-screen romance between Robert Pattinson (RPatz) and Kristen Stewart (KStew) have any direct impact on our lives? Why do we care and read about Jennifer Aniston’s love life, Brangelina’s travels, and Lindsay Lohans‘s public train wreck family and behavior? Why do I know all the players and nicknames?

The simplest explanation comes from the 1976 Oscar winning film, “Network.” Howard Beal, in the middle of his nationally televised breakdown, tells his audience that God anointed him to tell the people how to make themselves happy and free themselves of the mind-numbing television. Howard, quoting his vision, says, “I asked him, “why me?” And God said, ‘because you’re on television, dummy’.”

Well, that is part of the answer. “Psychology Today” author Carlin Flora writes in “Seeing by Starlight: Celebrity Obsession” about a meeting with Britney Spears. “Why should I care? For that matter, why should any of us? Celebrities are fascinating because they live in a parallel universe—one that looks and feels just like ours yet is light-years beyond our reach.”

When I was 10 years-old, I watched a “Tarzan” movie and I saw something beyond my reach. I had seen Johnny Weissmuller “Tarzan” films before, but this one was special. It’s when I got my first movie star crush; “Jane” played by Maureen O’Sullivan. There she was, in black and white, her beautiful brunette mane falling down her alabaster shoudlers, wearing nothing more than the jungle bikini that we assume Tarzan designed for her after learning all of her business in his tree house, despite his limited vocabulary; “ungawa.”

A recent “60-Minutes” interview with prolific historian, David McCullough reminds me that I am not alone in my celebrity envy. In the story, the crew travels with him to Paris where he discusses the century’s long fascination with the “City of Light” for all variety of artists. In one scene, McCullough, about to give a speech, pauses, approaches an elderly woman, introduces himself, and kisses her. He smiles, walks to the podium, and proudly proclaims, “I just kissed Olivia de Havilland.” And there you have it; One of the great intellectual biographers of our time, star struck by the woman, 70 years after the “studio” actress lit up the silver screen in “Robin Hood” and “Gone with the Wind.”

According to his birth date, the first time he could have seen “Gone with the Wind,” McCullough was six years old. She was 23.

Maureen O’Sullivan was 21 when “Tarzan the Ape Man” was released in 1932. I saw the movie about 40 years later. She was 75 when she co-starred in the 1986 Oscar winning, “Hannah and her Sisters.” When I saw her name in the credits, I remembered “Jane.”

Movie magic etches images in our impressionable minds forever. Last weekend “Breaking Dawn- Part 2opened in theaters. There are pre-adolescent boys, dragged to the theater by their mothers or older sisters, who will one day, 60 years from now, blush at the opportunity to meet Kristen Stewart or Ashley Greene, then in their 80’s. However, those men, like McCullough, will look beyond the years and only see the starlet on the big screen.

Something happens in our brains that makes celebrity bigger than life under just about any circumstances. Time and repeated images make us fonder of stars. Flora continues, “It’s not surprising that gorgeous people wind up famous. What’s less obvious is that famous people often wind up gorgeous: The more we see a certain face, the more our brain likes it, whether or not it’s actually beautiful. Thanks to what is known as “the exposure effect,” says James Bailey, a psychologist at George Washington University, the pleasurable biological cascade that is set off when we see a certain celebrity “begins to wear a neurochemical groove,” making her image easier for our brains to process.”

A “neurochemical groove” in McCullough’s brain allowed him to overlook the nonagenarian standing before him and he saw a movie star in her 20s.

By the way, in case you missed the “breaking news” Biebs and Selena, aka Jelena, were seen together after the American Music Awards last weekend.

Who was your first celebrity crush and how old were you?

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