The Huffington Post posted an article this week titled Dating After Divorce: Relationship Expert Offers Tips. At the end of the article, the author instructed readers to check out their slide show of what celebrities have to say about divorce. It seemed to elevate celebrities’ opinions to the same level as the “expert” in the article. This led me to wonder how much “advice” about relationships we actually consume from celebrities. And, are we listening?
I've tweeted a number of articles this week that provide an overview of how popular culture has shaped the public’s opinion of marriage equality. We've become accustomed to, and acknowledge, how television and movies influence our beliefs, but what happens when the advice moves from television and movie scripts to celebrities themselves offering opinions? Does the advice carry more importance? Less?
Just last week, Jada Pinkett Smith provided advice (her opinion really) on Facebook on what to do if your spouse cheats.
Oprah is known for offering her opinion, as well as hosting and launching the careers of many “experts.” Unfortunately, some of her guests turn out to provide terrible advice that many of her fans follow unquestioningly. For example, John Gray in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Dr. Phil have both provided harmful relationship advice to America (see A Decade of Advice for Women and Men in the Best-Selling Self-Help Literature and An Analysis of Dr. Phil's Advice About Relationships).
But, what about celebrities with even fewer qualifications than those so-called experts? Just as it is difficult to distinguish the “news” portion on Fox News from their commentary and opinion time slots, it’s getting ever more challenging to know when relationship advice is coming from an expert (a therapist, psychologist, social scientist, etc.) or someone simply famous. On the other hand, celebrities can play an important role in challenging unhelpful relationship beliefs. For instance, many have spoken out about their experiences with domestic violence and have brought much-needed awareness to this social problem.
There’s no doubt about the role of culture and celebrities in influencing norms. Celebrities not only shape but also reflect the norms of our society. So the real question is, how do consumers distinguish the good from the bad?