The Celebrity Cult

Friday, February 29, 2008


Written by Lauren Dobbie

John Lennon didn't care what society's perception of him was. What he cared about was peace and getting that message out. That's one of the things I learned from watching “The US vs. John Lennon”, the new documentary now out on DVD. He was a real life example of someone who embodied “the medium is the message”: if one uses peaceful and artistic methods to promote peace, then hopefully the people will learn and follow. His unwavering message to the public via the media was to use progressive ideas of peace and love not only to attempt to stop the Vietnam War, but to further the global culture's practice of peace on a personal and political level.

Lennon influenced the culture of the era immensely--from the early 60's as a member of the mythic Beatles to his post-Beatle life living in the United States. There were many who followed his example and his influence was not confined only to the popular music world. Protest became patriotic and Lennon was a part of the Zeitgeist. People were realizing their personal and political power and many felt we were on the cusp of realizing that we could have peace if we wanted it. Yet, after watching “The US vs. John Lennon”, it becomes clear that government interference and the public's celebrity obsession proved to be a formidable counter-force. These are the prominent themes explored in the film.

The American government that was in place at the time of “All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance” (the early 1970's) was behind the undermining of all of Lennon's peace efforts, trying to pull the rug from under him and work hard against him. In a sense, then-president Nixon became just as obsessed with Lennon as the public was, forcing the Vietnam War on and on, despite the outcries for it to stop and bring peace to reunite the nation. The government's obsessive agenda was so powerful that despite the masses of people who were trying to make Nixon see the more peaceful side, he just worked harder to crush him and the people who were working alongside him. The involvement and the time that went into rejecting someone who was singing for peace, rather than on proactive political policy that they should have been worrying about mimics the pop culture obsessions that everyday people had on Lennon. Lennon was brought to his (physical) end by someone who was infatuated with celebrities and intoxicated by being as famous as Lennon was. It's interesting how Lennon's assassin felt he embodied a prominent character in English literature (Holden Caulfield of Salinger's “The Catcher in the Rye”) and became unfortunately famous for slaying someone who was arguably just as well-known. Nixon's government had an obsession on Lennon to punctuate its war efforts that made Lennon's life difficult. Yet, his cause became even clearer because of the added contrast between the government's hate-propagating ways and his peaceful ones. Those who believed in Lennon and peace, internalized his ideas and ran with them, but those who were left, including Mark David Chapman, are the Celebrity Cult.

And we now have the film “The Killing of John Lennon”. If the production of a film with a title like that doesn't remind you of the Celebrity Cult that still exists and obsesses over the destruction of the celebrities from the 1960s--let alone those that are here today--I don't know what will. Director Andrew Piddington claims that his film is supposed to be about Chapman's psychosis, but a substantial amount of his film reviews claim it's doing nothing but digging up the painful event of Lennon's death and worse--obsessing on the assassin himself. Do we have a sick need to micro analyze the lives of celebrities and watch them burn in the heat of the spotlight? Nixon wanted Lennon disempowered because he posed a threat to his war and didn't want the public rising against him; Chapman wanted him destroyed so he could quench his desire to be famous. These days, the bystander apathy and ubiquitous gossip surrounding Britney Spears' life falling apart is disturbingly reminiscent.

Yoko Ono, on “Should Mark David Chapman be forgiven?”:


UK trailer for “The Killing of John Lennon”:


John Lennon on government targets:


John Lennon's “Imagine”:


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