"The Nuisance Of The Talentless Ghanaian Celebrity" - Dr. Richard Tia, KNUST
A celebrity is a person who is widely recognized and commands a degree of public and media attention. Celebrities are famous, popular, and celebrated.
Celebrities are adored by the public – children stand in long queues for their autographs and adults spend money for their memorabilia.
Celebrities are trendsetters and they are role models for youngsters. Children crave to be like them. In Ghana, most of our celebrities are in the movie and showbiz industry. Never mind that for some of them you would be hard-pressed to name a single movie they have starred in to qualify as movie stars and never mind that for some of them the only reason you know they are movie stars is because they say so in their social media profiles.
Celebrities are aware of their fame and popularity and they use it to great effect. Some parlay their popularity into careers in politics (eg. John Dumelo) and others use it for product endorsement and advertisement – we all remember OJ Simpson and the Hertz commercial; Cleveland Mitchel (Michael Power) and the Guinness advertisement; Michael Jackson and Pepsi; and David Beckham and H&M.
Others use their influence for social causes – Actress Yvonne Nelson organized one of the most successful demonstrations against dumsor and the Mahama government in 2015, and all she did was rely on her celebrity status.
Celebrities sell an image, even if that image is sometimes not worth emulating. Because celebrities directly influence young people, a certain standard of conduct is expected of them. This is not written and cast in stone but as a civilized society, that expectation is implied and understood. But there comes a time when a celebrity puts up conduct that is seen as falling below the moral standards of the people, and usually when people complain there is a counter-argument that these celebrities are adults and are at liberty to do what they please with their lives. It is important to note that when people complain, they are not trying to dictate to the celebrity how to live their lives – you cannot teach an old dog new rules – but they are telling young people who are usually of the impression that celebrities are demigods who can do no wrong, that a particular act by a celebrity is not worth emulating. It is usually to underscore the point that a particular act by a celebrity is not necessarily the best course of action and you mustn’t be pressured into wanting to do the same to appear trendy. This is not out of the way in a democratic and civilized society. If you are going to take center stage in my TV and radio, I should at least be allowed to critique what you say and do on TV. That is not dictating to you how you should live your life, I am just providing an alternative opinion and standard on public behavior. When you mount the stage and yell, “make some noise” and the people go delirious and shout their voices hoarse you are happy, but when you do something the people consider stupid and they criticize you, you claim they are trying to dictate to you!
About a few years ago a celebrity attended an event in the National Theatre almost naked and when people complained she and her supporters said no one can tell her how to appear in public and those who don’t want to see her could turn off their TV. Not so fast, lady! I paid for my TV license and you cannot force me to put off my TV because of your scrawny nakedness. I should let youngsters watch know that I do not think this is a standard they should aspire to. So let our so-called celebrities know this: you can do anything you want to and with your bodies but if you are going to be parading on my TV, I should at least have a right to tell you that what you are doing is not worth emulating.
Some time ago a certain celebrity flooded social media with her nude pictures under the banner of feminism. Don’t get me wrong, feminism is a noble cause. Men and women are equal in all respects and must be treated that way at all times but I cannot see how taking nude pictures in your garden and posting them on Instagram advances equality. What is “bold” and “confident” about bearing your vitals for the world to see? Prehistoric man roamed naked in the jungles of Africa and Asia for generations. We moved from that to fig leaves and animal skins, and then to cotton, wool, and silk, and now to synthetic fabrics like polyester. How can you take humanity back a thousand years and call it boldness?
There is this funny notion in Ghanaian showbiz that there is nothing like bad publicity and that all publicity is to an artiste’s advantage. Well, that is untrue. If you have no talent to show but you nevertheless want to be in the public eye then of course anything goes as long as it helps put you in the news but if you have the talent to show, you want to showcase the good stuff and you wouldn’t want anything to detract from that. When I was growing up my main music idol Bob Marley had just passed but Lucky Dube was around and his talent was so palpable that he didn’t need any media shenanigans to attract attention. Cecil Dion was so talented that she needed no media shenanigans to sell records and fill seats. Back home in Ghana, the likes of Fred Amugi, Brew Riverson Jr and Grace Nortey did not need to show their nakedness on red carpets to garner following. What we have now are talentless wannabes who have taken the mantra “sex sells” a little too far. If your selling point is your body and vital statistics and you parade that on TV and social media, then when you begin to develop cellulite on your thighs and people point to it, you cannot complain of being body-shamed. It was you who made your body the center of attention in the first place.
It has now emerged that the celebrity referred to above may have been suffering from a mental illness and her colleagues are now arguing that society should have offered her help sooner rather than criticizing her. How was society to know when the line between madness and saneness has been growing ever so thin? And where are those who were defending her claiming she has the right to do whatever she wants with and to herself?
Maybe it is about time we refocus the debate on who to celebrate. If I were a young girl I would look up to Justice Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo, the first female speaker of the parliament of Ghana; I would look up to Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, the first female Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana; I would look up to Justice Sophia Abena Akuffo, current Chief Justice of Ghana; I would look up to Professor Florence Abena Dolphyne, the first female Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana; I would look up to Professor Victoria Pearl Dzogbefia, the first Ghanaian female full professor in a scientific discipline; I would look up to Professor Aba Bentil Andam, a nuclear physicist and first female president of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences; and I would look up to Professor Naa Afarley Sackeyfio and Ama Ata Aidoo, noted playwrights. But how am I supposed to know of them and look up to them when all the media talks about and celebrate are talentless half-naked men and women prancing about?
Credit: Dr. Richard Tia, Lecturer, Department of Chemistry, KNUST.
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