Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dr. Drew Pinsky and Dr. S. Mark Young/THE MIRROR EFFECT

Dr. Drew Pinsky (the host of Loveline and Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew) and entertainment expert Dr. S. Mark Young look at how celebrity culture is affecting America. Their claim that narcissism is at the core of celebrity misbehavior isn't surprising, but their theory that narcissism is also what drives our interest in those antics is fascinating.

Narcissism isn't quite what you think it is (at least, it wasn't what I thought it was). It isn't egotism, and it isn't self-love. Extreme narcissism stems from childhood trauma and involves the need to find one's identity externally rather than internally. The seven traits associated with narcissism (and they're not all necessarily bad traits in moderation) are: vanity, exhibitionism, exploitativeness, authority, entitlement, superiority, and self-sufficiency. The authors take a look at how celebrities express these traits, from Paris Hilton's sense that she doesn't deserve to spend jail time for her DUI, to Britney Spears's need to flash her crotch at paparazzi.

But what's more interesting is how the authors believe that we mirror celebrity narcissism. The outrageous behavior of celebutantes may evoke our own latent sense of superiority in the form of self-righteous condemnation. Or it may normalize exhibitionism and vanity to the degree that we feel comfortable posting racy photos of ourselves online (This is especially true for teens, who are prone to narcissism at their stage of development).

The book does become repetitive, bringing back the same points and examples so that by the time I got to the middle I felt as if I might have accidentally started over. I would have liked to see examples from a wider segment of celebrities (Britney, Paris, and Lindsay are discussed most often). However, the study of narcissism was enlightening and interesting, and the self-indexing test at the back of the book was a good bonus.

View the book's page at HarperCollins.


moonrat said...

wow. ummm. i think i must be pretty narcissistic, based on that list...

what does it say about me, and the seduction of celebrity narcissism, that i want to read the book now to see how i might be a narcissist?

thanks for the review!

Leigh Russell said...

Very amusing, moonrat.
Maybe the repetition becomes inevitable in a book discussing celebrity behaviour? Kids seeking attention don't have great role models in most celebrities. They'll do anything for attention. Britney entering the discussion because she wasn't wearing knickers... ! But we're talking about her. I find the whole thing weird (I don't mean Britney's bits. I averted my eyes!) What drives people to cling on to this insane ride? Attention? power? money? needing to feel popular? I suppose some of them just get caught by the buzz of adulation before they're old enough to think about it. Look at Michael Jackson. What chance did he have to be 'normal'?
It's an interesting topic. But why is it so interesting? !

Cheryl said...

The author suggests that people "cling to this insane ride" (as you put it) because they've been traumatized as children and are coping with their repressed sense of shame.

It's seriously a fascinating read. And yeah, I got pretty excited about testing myself for narcissism. If you read the book, Moonrat, you should post your score from the narcissism test in the back.