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A New Age of Celebrity Worship

Experts help you understand the good, the bad, and the ugly of being the world's biggest fan.

Fans Gone Wild: What Makes Us Tick continued...

"The whole Hollywood spin machine works together to create images that are impossible for any of us to live up to. They purposefully set us up to admire and even covet something we can never have," says Aronowitz.

Then, she says, when we are completely vulnerable, they sell us the image even harder -- from headlines that titillate us with "celebrity secrets," to the books, diets, cosmetics, foods, jewelry, and clothes that promise we'll be closer to the ones we adore.

"There are fortunes being made by turning fans into victims and all it starts by creating that frenzy known as celebrity worship," says Aronowitz.

Ironically, however, almost as quickly as the media builds our celebrity heroes, they break them via the increasingly growing practice of hanging a star's dirty laundry out for all to see. And it is this practice, says Aronowitz, which can have some very twisted and negative effects on fans.

"Prior to Marilyn Monroe, a star's life was hidden from the public. But now, instead of a glossy ideal, we see celebrity's ugly messes, including their drug and alcohol abuse, which, for many who admire these people, translates into a very dangerous message," says Aronowitz.

Indeed, a study published in the journal Lancet showed that adolescents who viewed smoking in movies were more likely to begin the habit themselves. Others have hinted the same may be true for drug and alcohol use, as well as eating disorders such as anorexia, which can develop when fans try to emulate the unrealistic low weights of their favorite stars.

Moreover, extreme copycat desires of some can even turn deadly, when the one we worship takes -- or loses -- his or her life.

"Some, mostly young fans, can become so overwhelmed by the loss that they themselves begin to believe their life is not worth living," he says.

Healthy, Happy, and Star Struck

While for some, celebrity worship can be unhealthy, experts say that for most of us, it's a pleasant diversion that can actually improve our lives. This is particularly true when the object of our interest sets a good example that helps us strive to achieve our own ideals.

"If you idolize someone for their accomplishments, and those accomplishments spurn you on to make gains in your own life, then admiring a celebrity can have a positive influence on your ambition, or even your mental health," says Aronowitz.

Indeed, many say that the popularity of Donald Trump's hit show The Apprentice and his own new-found star status stemmed from the fact that both he and the show provided a can-do attitude that inspired many young viewers to move forward on their own dreams. This mirrors the success -- and the feverish fan base -- for shows like American Idol, the Hollywood dream machine that showcases fresh talent from around the country.

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