As if he has returned from a years-long quest, the medieval knight seems to be back. Yet he is no longer wearing a heavy armor set, carrying a throat-slitting sword, nor arriving on some biologically perfect stallion: he has humbly traded his signature gear for a Thrasher sweater, a pair of artificially ripped jeans and an eye-catching BMW. His Lady, the pinnacle of his private world, the absolute test of his chivalry, has become the owner of an 11-million-followers Instagram account, spending a dollar per like on plastic surgery. Where ever one looks someone with a perfect life is present. The rich and famous have returned to being an idealized version of themselves, so we, the commoners, aspire to be them even more. Celebrities have become knights, and in romances of secret affairs, public rivalry, and battles with drugs, depression and alcohol, they spread their names across the globe.
Of course, this phenomenon is not entirely a thing only from the past few years. In a way, celebrities have always been our heroes, by the absolute definition of the word. How would someone be able to become and remain famous, if nobody looked up to them? To me however, it is the way our celebrities gained and handle their fame that makes them more like the medieval knight than ever before. People like the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed or David Bowie, the latter of whom did by the way wear very, very shiny armor, all became famous because they did something different. Their actions simply shocked the world, they brought something entirely new, seemingly straight out of the blue, to the table, together with heavy critiques and discussions of sexuality, gender, war, freedom and overall identity, they rather were the opposite of a hero or knight than anything else. The celebrities of today however, no longer shock in the way they used to. They do the expected, which is not entirely their fault. They still share their opinions on gender equality, the state of minorities, and concepts like freedom, hatred and war, yet these discussions have gone from being overtly controversial conversations, dividing the young and the old, to having become social-media-driven mass-trends. Everything is constantly shared, retweeted and reposted by people of every age, race and gender, thus making culture less exclusive, and therefore less shocking for those excluded. #MeToo is not something to nervously confront your parents with, like Rock ‘n Roll or flower power, it is something to share on Facebook so they might see it as well. From rebelling against the system, celebrities are now expected to do the expected in order to retain their top place in social hierarchy.
Secondly, social media have had another effect on the manifestation of our stars. Whereas previously they shone every Saturday evening on the stage of some nightclub, to be seen only by those who bought a ticket, they are now in the spotlights 24/7. Because of this need for a presence on social media, and the great amount of viewers, or followers, this creates, celebrities have gained an influence even bigger than before, and with influence comes power, and with power responsibility. There’s no longer any chance to have six beers during breakfast and do an interview while driving a car afterwards, like Hunter S. Thompson once did, for these kind of actions would have catastrophic and lethal effects immediately. If you are famous, you simply have to set a good example. As a result, this eradication of the negative, has led to an overdoing of the positive. Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook accounts have become heavily managed machines of idealization. According to social media Kim never fights with Kanye, neither do Beyoncé and Jay-Z ever have their differences, because we shouldn’t. They don’t ever get way too drunk, overdose, or embarrass themselves because we shouldn’t. Their lives are nothing less than perfect, and if one of them ever does cross the line, their actions are immediately scandalized and apologized for by themselves, their agents and almost every news and gossip medium around. In short, once again our rich and famous show us the way we should live, just like Arthur, Gawain and Lancelot did five hundred years ago.
Lastly, it is not only social media that caused these changes. The genres and businesses celebrities originate out of, and manifest themselves in have become more and more congruous and consistent as well. Just like the medieval romance was once written in alliterative verse, and continued to make its main character battle both the inner private and the external public, while on a quest he always returned home from, SoundCloud rappers would not stand a chance to become even slightly known without dyeing their hair in all the colors of the rainbow, filling their faces with tattoos and putting Lil in front of their names. In that same way novels are known to essentially do something unpredictable, reality TV stars to be the generate drama queens they are, and seemingly not caring models to constantly spread some sexual-boundary-pushing message. Combined with the strong presence of certain groups in our society – folk is for hipsters, boybands for teenage girls, and books for intellectuals – ironically born out of the strong stress on being an individual, there is little room left for celebrities to truly and precisely do what they want, while still making some money. Fans want to confirm to a certain style and vibe, maybe even stereotype, when reading, watching or listening to a particular artist. They already want to slightly know what they are going to experience when that new album is dropped, just like some medieval stable boy did when he went to listen to another tale of the knights of the round table after having been busy with the horses all day.
Logically, every rule has its exception, and nothing is as black and white as it seems. Therefore everything here must be taken with a grain of salt, please do not come stab me if you think I´m wrong, this is simply my opinion. However, I do believe this phenomenon is somewhat on the rise, and although we might have lost a little bit of the genius and shock, for instance somebody like David Bowie never failed to supply, we have gotten some collective in return, which might not be the worst thing in a world where everybody is different, unique and an individual. Also, I cannot wait to see what quest Kanye takes on next.