Thursday, January 28, 2016

Celebrity and Entertainment Obsession: Understanding Our Addiction by Michael S. Levy, PhD

A fascinating look at the psychology behind the phenomenon of the 21st century's obsession with celebrities and entertainment.

Celebrity & Entertainment Obsession: Understanding Our Addiction by Michael S. Levy, PhD
Publisher: Rowman & LIttlefield
Release date: August 2015
Hardcover, 222 pages
Content Rating: PG 13 + M

Book Description:

“Our celebrity captivation seems out of proportion,” says Michael S. Levy, PhD, addiction expert and author of CELEBRITY & ENTERTAINMENT OBSESSION: Understanding Our Addiction

Dr. Levy wrote CELEBRITY & ENTERTAINMENT OBSESSION to shed light on why we as a society are obsessed with people who work in the entertainment field—movies and television in particular—but singers, musicians sports figures and people on reality TV as well. Dr. Levy, whose previous book, Take Control of Your Drinking…and You May Not Need to Quit, resonated with many people, finds it remarkable that people who work in the entertainment field get more recognition and adoration than a competent brain surgeon who saves people’s lives, or a pathologist who has made inroads in cancer treatment.

This wasn’t always the case. Sixty years ago, a Gallup Poll study showed that people who were most admired included Einstein, Winston Churchill, Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur. Not one entertainer, sports star or media personality made the list. Fast-forward to 2000 – 2009 and we have stars like Bono, Tiger Woods, and Denzel Washington making the list.

Dr. Levy can discuss society’s obsession with beauty, how our vulnerability to addiction, our need for idols and our voyeuristic predispositions all contribute to our celebrity obsession as well as:

• How the mass media controls our thinking, the nature of our social intercourse and interactions with each other and our preoccupation with celebrities

• How the media exploits our voyeurism and how our voyeurism serves as a form of distraction and amusement

• Why being entertained has become our primary preoccupation

• Why celebrities’ real-life, off-screen stories get more publicity than anything they have done in their careers

Dr. Levy laments that television news programs focus as much, if not more, on the lives of high-profile celebrities than about other more important issues of the day. He believes that our obsession with entertainers is something to be concerned about since we will have missed opportunities to learn from others who could provide us with valuable ideas and standards for our young people. While the entertainment machine has given us a quick fix to feel good, Dr. Levy asks: “is our obsession with celebrities the best use our time? What will be important to reflect on at the end of our lives: Will it be what we knew about some celebrity or might it be something else?”

Book Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

Having taken both psychology courses in the past and having worked in Social Services, I'm always interested in learning more about human behaviour. Psychologist Michael S. Levy has explored a relatively new field, that of our society's addiction to celebrities and entertainment. We all do it, and perhaps don't realize that we do. And in today's world with super easy access to the Internet 24/7, we and our children are even more vulnerable to this addiction.

Dr. Levy writes in the first person, sometimes mentioning his own personal experiences which makes this intelligent and well-written book a pleasure to read. It's not dry even though he does mention statistics and quotes from many studies and includes 40 page of notes and references in the back section of the book. The thorough index makes it easy to find information.

I was fascinated but not surprised by the information presented because I have researched how to help my kids not become so addicted to the entertainment scene. But what I did learn was why and how we are inclined to do certain things and how both our inherent nature and the social scene contribute to this. For example, we have a natural tendency towards voyeurism so even if we don't want to view something we are still drawn to it. Also we live an increasingly isolated existence and this coupled with boredom and loneliness will draw us toward this obsession with celebrities and their lives.

Essentially, as Dr. Levy states, "...we have come to rely on entertainment to feel good." Is it no wonder we are a depressed society? Entertainment has "capitalized on our humanness", Dr. Levy continues. As a mother, this book reinforced my vigilance towards what my children watch but has also made me more conscientious as to what I can do to keep my children actively engaged in society.

This book is an excellent resource and should be part of any curriculum in the studies of Psychology. I also think it's good reading for parents and social workers. Dr. Levy includes an epilogue summarizing his findings and this quote touched me:

In a world where celebrity equals talent, and where make-believe is called reality, it is most important to have real love, truth and stability in your life. - Bernie Brillstein

Indeed, how true.
Disclosure: Thanks to the publicist for sending me this book for review. I was not told how to rate or review this product.

To read more reviews, please visit Micheal S. Levy's page on iRead Book Tours.

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About the Author:

Michael S. Levy, PhD is a clinical psychologist who is the director of substance use services at North Shore Medical Center in Salem, Massachusetts. He also maintains a private practice in psychotherapy in Andover, Massachusetts and is a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has often been interviewed on radio and television. Levy has published numerous articles and book chapters, gives many lectures and workshops, and is the author of one previous book, Take Control of Your Drinking...And You May Not Need to Quit.

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