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  • Children of Eden written by Joey Graceffa
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Celebrities are not to be worshipped

A beaming young woman approached me after the show, with a young eight year old girl clinging to her waist, and said, “Excuse me, young lady!”

“My daughter wanted to tell you how much she enjoyed your performance. In fact, she says you’re her role model, and she wants to dress and act just like [my character] when she grows up.”

The adorable little girl didn’t make eye-contact with me, just shuffled her feet and snuggled close to her mother’s dress.

I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t incredibly flattered. Although I’ve been involved in theatre for a few years now, this “hero worship” situation a few years back, while mild, caught me a bit off guard.

Don’t get me wrong! The kid was adorable, and I was secretly delighted at the idea she would copy the extremely colorful character I was portraying in real life, which would be rather entertaining and hilarious.

That night, after changing into my regular clothes, I spent some time with my new young friend, Rachel, and explained to her over some cookies and punch that I’m just a normal person.

Here’s another story: picture me as a senior in high school, where a friend of mine and I ran into a well-known news anchor for a prominent news station in Toledo at a school function.

I proceeded to bumble the complicated English language, conversing unintelligibly until the news anchor politely excused himself with a bemused smile.

I had stars in my eyes. I just talked with a person I see on TV! Wow.

Most of us have experienced these kinds of situations, whether it is centered on a good- looking grad student who knows your name, a lean and built college football player or a celebrity we see on the big screen. We lose a strong sense of reality, forgetting that everyone puts on shoes in the morning.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — or is it?

Believe it or not, as harmless as this seems, there’s now a scientific condition to describe this phenomenon in its extreme. It’s called CWS — Celebrity Worship Syndrome, and it’s the hot new topic in scientific circles.

Celebrity Worship Syndrome, a fascination with the life of another person, usually the rich and the famous, can become a dangerous addiction.

Two psychologists in the United States interviewed 600 people about their personality and interest in celebrities, and one-third were found to suffer from CWS.

These include people who fantasize about celebrities, celebrity stalkers and people who are willing to hurt themselves or others in the name of their idol. They correlate with symptoms of psychosis, such as impulsive, anti-social and egocentric behavior.

“Just worshipping a celebrity does not make you dysfunctional,” New Scientist quoted one psychologist, James Houran, as saying. “But it does put you at risk of being so.”

“There is this progression of behaviors, and if you start, we don’t know what’s going to stop you.”

Obviously, CWS is a bit different from my experiences, since neither I nor even the wonderful prominent news anchor can be considered celebrities, and admiration does not equal stalking tendencies.

While I’m no celebrity though, I have to ask: Who can draw the line between harmless infatuation and obsession? It has to start somewhere.

What made that little girl see me on stage and desire to be converted into my character? I dance my dance with homework, zits, parking tickets and cash deficiency like everyone else.

What made me see stars when I met that news anchor? He drives home like anyone else, puts pants on in the morning, and probably nicks himself shaving occasionally.

These situations seem harmless — until the stars in the eyes convert to dreams at night, musings during lunch and wistful smiles as you begin to look up their personal information on-line. Hmm.

Think I’m exaggerating? Well, maybe a little. However, a small deviation from reality can lead to bigger consequences — in other words, Celebrity Worship Syndrome, the new scientific terminology for celebrity stalking.

We create boundaries in our minds between “ordinary” people in our lives and the “exceptional,” which include personalities we see on TV and, in my case, on stage.

What’s my point? Oh! I know this one! It’s alright to admire, think highly of, and even fantasize about exceptional people. Just, take it with a grain of salt and remember than when you put someone on a pedestal; not only are they going to fall, but you’re going to look foolish and get hit on the head.

E-mail Jessica with comments at [email protected].

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