Ellen Group Selfie at Oscars – 2014
Be honest, at one point in your life you’ve had a crush on a celebrity. And that’s totally normal! I’ve had plenty. Hell, I still have celebrity crushes to this day. I’m not sure if they go away with age; if I ask my parents if they still have celebrity crushes they respond with a plain “no”, or they reminisce about the celebrity crushes they had when they were younger (a young Billy Idol and Monica Bellucci were mentioned), but it seems that more recent crushes are nonexistent. Some people might find it weird to admit they have a celebrity crush. Why would you idolise a person that you literally have no availability to and who doesn’t even know that you exist? Valid. That’s a good point. However, these crushes can be comforting exactly because of their unavailability. The fact that these people are so unreachable makes it easier to accept that you have a crush on them; the unattainability of celebrities to their fans is predestined and thus leaves room for platonic adoration.
I’ll admit that for the longest time I had the biggest crush on the one, the only, Harry Styles. An obvious one I know, since it seems that half of the female teenage population had a crush on him during, and even after the big One Direction era. The other half was obsessed with Justin Bieber if I remember correctly. These types of romantic crushes are normal. Healthy even, because you can safely explore youthful adoration through them. Nonetheless, they might also be pointing to a more serious issue. In an article in Stylist, Kayleigh Dray mentions that celebrity crushes are linked to deterring mental health. It is argued that if you become too obsessed with your unattainable crush you are likely to burn-out and fall into depression because you can’t reap the benefits that you can in an actual relationship. But, they also mentioned that if the crush is not obsessive and in its essence no more than an adoration, it can be rewarding: no risk, high benefits. Another benefit can be that you can have multiple crushes at the same time. You can look for qualities to admire in multiple people without a sense of guilt, your loyalty is determined by yourself and the harm in ‘unstanning’ someone is minimal.
However, these types of celebrity crushes are not what I would like to discuss. They seem pretty clear cut to me, and I think everyone can agree that it’s normal to find someone attractive, especially a celebrity that is often marketed to be exactly that.
What I would like to know is if you’ve ever had a crush on a fictional character? Also totally normal if you ask me. Reflect a little deeper on yourself and what these fictional crushes might mean (I would also like to refer back here to the idea of the Female and the Male Gaze that my fellow Writer’s Block board member Emilia talked about in her article called “The Fantasy of the Female Gaze”). Go over why you think one fictional character did speak to you and others didn’t. Was it the character or was it the actor? Was it both? Example: Stiles Stilinski in Teen Wolf. Is it Dylan O’Brien that makes his character so likeable and thus makes it so easy to crush on Stiles, or is Dylan O’Brien a likeable celebrity and are you, therefore, inclined to like Stiles? Same could be said for Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man. I’ve never even seen any of the Marvel Universe movies relating to his character, but from what I’ve picked up he seems to have a whole army of fanboys behind him. But what makes characters such as these so likeable?
Fanfiction thrives on unavailability. I would be a bad literature student if I had never delved deep into the realms of Fanfiction before. It can be such a fruitful form of fantasy and creativity to explore your passion for writing in, since the characters, situations, and sceneries are basically at your disposal already. You can also shake things up a little bit and use only the characters and put them in a different universe and vice-versa. One of the most popular examples would be Fifty Shades of Grey, which started as a Twilight Fanfiction. After, the so-called teenage rendition of Fifty Shades started as a Harry Styles Fanfic (and no, I do not claim either are great literary works). Both series have garnered a huge fan base of their own that built off the fan bases they originated from. Fanfiction is prosperous because these already existing people and characters often have a big fan base to begin with, so the readers will automatically be attracted and attached: instant hit!
Something the Dray’s article in Stylist doesn’t really address is the idea of platonic celebrity crushes, which I would like to give my two cents on. Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, nor do I claim to be a mental health expert, I simply enjoy picking my brain and trying to find connections between behaviour and thought as a hobby.
I remember a couple of years ago when I first heard of the concepts of a “Man Crush Monday” or a “Woman Crush Wednesday”: hashtags that would be used on a specific day of the week, to express platonic admiration for one another or a celebrity, often of the same sex (beware, the urban dictionary also refers to these terms in a less heteronormative way, but for the point that I’m trying to make let’s stick to the platonic use of the terms). I’d argue that the difference in these platonic crushes lies in the qualities that they possess. My platonic celeb-crush on Anya Taylor Joy is completely different from my celeb-crush on Harry Styles. In one I see qualities that I would like to possess, and the other I used to obsess over from a completely different perspective (for lack of a better description let’s call it a ‘romantic-like’ crush). Platonic crushes reveal something about us that ‘romantic’ celebrity crushes do not necessarily do. A reflection of what we want to be versus a reflection of what we look for in a potential romantic partner perhaps. I’d argue that exactly that is what makes fictional characters so likeable and what inspires these platonic crushes. These characters represent an ideal for us: who we want to be like, skills we would love to have, their popularity which we would love to enjoy andsoforth. In Fanfiction you can explore scenarios with people you admire as the main characters: either as a writer by writing your own scenarios, or as a reader by experiencing these crushes from what seems to be a ‘more intimate’ point of view. We crush on unreachable people of whom we only have access to a manufactured image of, because they represent things that we want to have or that we want to become.
Perhaps celebrity crushes fade away when we get older because we start mirroring the behaviour and qualities we admire in the people that we idolise and thus start growing more into the people that we ourselves want to be. If these crushes reflected who we wanted to be and qualities we wanted to possess before, then they are bound to disappear when we no longer have to look for those qualities in others. If we grow into the people that we admire, then we won’t have to look up to others anymore and can start admiring ourselves. It might also just be that pop culture is not necessarily aimed to be relevant for a more grown-up audience, and that every trending celebrity in pop culture is not meant to be appealing toward an adult audience (anomalies excluded). Nevertheless, I’d like to believe the first rather than the latter, because I would love to embody the qualities that I admire in people and blossom into a person that I myself would look up to.
Whether it’s platonic or ‘romantic’, our celebrity crushes reveal and reflect ideals and the standards we hold ourselves and others to. They can be harmless, they can be helpful, they can be fun, they can be entertaining and can even be comforting. The most important thing is to always remind yourself that these are still only parts of people that you have been allowed access to, and most of it is manufactured. Celebrities and pop culture are never important enough to compromise your ethics or morals over.
Written by Marijne Ottenheym
Degeneres, Ellen. [@TheEllenShow]. “If only Bradley’s arm was longer. Best photo ever. #oscars”, Twitter, 3 March 2014,
Dray, Kayleigh. “Psychology of burnout: your celebrity crush could be a symptom of burnout. Here’s how to tell,” Stylist.