In filmmaking, when you want to make a character look powerful, big, or important, you shoot the camera angled up at them. They look bigger, taller, more intimidating. Just like when scaring off a bear, you make yourself as big as possible. The bear thinks that you have more power than itself. This effect is amplified in a theatre when the actor is ten feet tall. Your subconscious brain sees a beautiful actor or actress that’s head is 12 feet high, and the caveman/woman inside you says, “they’re the leader.” I think this is part of the reason why we traditionally admire celebrities. We see them in theatres as huge Greek Gods. We project storylines onto them. They become characters in the play in our heads we make up to make sense of the world. They become archetypes. Some are villains. Some are heroes. Some are sirens. Some are guides.
Power in Prevalence
Seeing models, athletes, celebrities, politicians, and influencers on billboards, posters, and signs also have the same effect. They are multiple times our size. They’re in a commanding position, often high up on a billboard or tower, so we must literally look up to them. Our subconscious puts them in positions of importance, even if we don’t know them at all. These positions of importance trigger us to want to know more about them. We’re interested in their lives, ideas, and what they say because our mammalian brain thinks that they are our pack leader.
Hyper-prevalence can have the same effect as exaggerated size. And, with social media, their presence is everywhere. We’re hyper-aware of their thoughts and lives. They can contact us, but we can’t really contact them. Subconsciously, seeing someone constantly will make us view them in an idolized, bigger-than-human form.
The Hero, LeBron James
Consciously, most don’t think that Kim Kardashian, Keanu Reeves, or LeBron James are better humans. Obviously, we don’t consciously think of them as our leaders. We understand they’re just people in the limelight. They have the luxuries that fame and money give, but they’re no greater than the average person. Their lives are often put on the broadcast to fit the narrative of their life. For example, when LeBron James wins a series, he further defines his character in the public eye as beyond human. This becomes another chapter of his life that we can read about as a bedtime story. When Keanu Reeves goes on a talk show and speaks about his dark and depressing past, it further laminates his character to us. He is a suffering but kind soul.
Influencers have included themselves as part of this group with the rise of social media. We see influencers all the time on our phones. Because they are so prevalent, they still command power, regardless of the small physical size we see them as on our phones. We’re now accustomed to everything about our favorite influencers as if they’re our friends. We know them intimately, their behaviors, their thoughts when they’re acting out of the ordinary. They have become mythological creatures to which we project personality and tropes onto. They are half-man/woman, half-phone.
The Character’s Power
Influencers have noted the tropes that they can play into. They alter their behavior so they are easily digestible. They present as if they are already the tropes that we know and can align with. Francesco Farango played the Villain on Too Hot To Handle. Immediately after, her career as an influencer boomed. Harry Jowsy, from the same show, has since made himself out to be a Hero. He acts decently, honestly, and openly. The public then projects a personality onto these people as if they are characters more than people.
Money or the display of wealth also makes us feel that another person has more power. Especially if we don’t know them and are only made aware of their presence through social media, we see them spending their money and the evidence of the power money holds. Money grants access to stability, beauty, health, travel, and influence. Money gives people access to an idealized life. This idealized life registers to viewers on a subconscious level. Because these influencers live an idealized life, and they are not, this translates to these people being leaders.
American norms state that people who have money have more often than not earned it or have a special quality that maintains it. The hard work they supposedly put forth or the special talent they profited from justifies their wealth and sets them apart from the general populous. This is not to say that wealthy people don’t work hard. But, that wealthy people are advertised as more hard-working or more intelligent than the average person.
People with money command attention, even online. The indicators of wealth that have been accepted by society. This includes expensive cars and purses, big homes, dressed in well-fitting clothing, in good health, etc. The display of these indicators creates a distance between the “average person” and the upper crust. Many in the lower class cannot afford these luxuries, nor the power that comes with wealth. A person driving an expensive car can do something that most cannot do – buy that car. We believe these people are no longer “human” like we are, but characters.
The Character Money Buys
Though nobody in the right mind would say that the upper class is better than the poor, we see they have power. With this money comes access to areas the poor cannot reach. The power that comes with wealth makes us intimidated by them. We view them as aspirational figures. Those with money often come to fame by being wealthy or with the aid of their money. The combination of wealth and fame creates a figure in our head that is a Greek God, not a human being like us.
The adoration of celebrities and upper class fits into narratives in our head that we’ve been taught since childhood. These people are not close enough to us to know them personally, but we’re still aware of them, like characters in a book. They have their own character developments that we track and their own plotlines. In a way, we idolize and dehumanize celebrities at the same time, even if we aren’t aware of it. e
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