Narcissism in the Media
This page is meant to give you a look at the different kinds of narcissists you can see on TV and in other social media realms today. It can be suprising, shocking, or maybe even obvious that these people exist in the world and that we are able to see them on a daily basis from the comfort of our own living rooms. We take a look at pop culture today and how prominent narcissism is.
Toddlers, Tiaras & Narcissistic Mothers
If you live in America and own a TV, you have probably heard of the show on TLC called Toddlers and Tiaras, a controversial show that looks into the world of competitive child beauty pageants. Where to begin with this one…well, let’s start with the little girls competing.
Most of these pint-sized beauty queens were just that before they could even walk, talk, or present any of the “personality” their mothers rave about on the show. They had it instilled in their minds before they were able to have any say in the matter that this is what they are supposed to do. Instead of playing with dolls, these girls are made into life-sized dolls, looking about as plastic and fake as the toys.
On the show, TLC takes you into the homes and lives of these girls and their families, and shows the viewers everything that goes into a “Glitz” beauty pageant, most of them taking place in the south where beauty pageants are more of a big deal than up north. These little girls are given spray tans, flippers (fake teeth for those missing their baby teeth), fake hair, and thousand dollar dresses all in preparation for a pageant whose usual attendance looks to be less than 50 people in an auditorium or hotel ballroom. Who is behind this madness? Two words: narcissistic mothers.
Most of the moms on the show are, excuse me for being blunt but, ugly, overweight, and living vicariously through their daughters. Because narcissists believe their children to be an extension of themselves, these mothers use their daughters to live out their dreams of being beautiful and praised for their looks and talent (I use the word talent very loosely here). When their daughters are competing in these pageants, the mothers use phrases like “WE really want to win,” and “WE didn’t do as well in swimwear as we wanted to,” as if they are the ones up on stage.
These narcissistic mothers will stop at nothing for their daughters to win, pushing the envelope in any way possible to make sure their daughters win the “Ultimate Grand Supreme” title. One mother on the show from Georgia gives her daughter “Go-Go Juice” before the competition, which consists of a mixture of Red Bull and Mountain Dew, to ensure that her daughter is full of energy and has enough sugar and caffeine in her system to keep her up for the 12 hour long pageant. Studies have shown that this can lead to neurological and cardiovascular problems, along with physical dependence, addiction, and weight problems in the future.
“Pageant Crack,” or more commonly known as pixie sticks, is another common tactic by the mothers to keep their kids hyper and alert for the pageants. As if shoving sugar and caffeine down their daughters’ throats isn’t enough, that is just the tip of the iceberg of what these moms do to get the attention of the judges (some of which look like child molesters, I might add). One mother dressed her daughter up in the streetwalker costume from Julia Robert’s movie Pretty Woman, complete with blonde wig, over-the-knee boots, and revealing dress. Another mother stuffed her daughter with fake boobs and butt pads to give the illusion of a mini Dolly Parton. Although somewhat comical and giving a nod to pop culture, most people outside of the pageant did not find these things to be as entertaining and crown-worthy.
These young girls, most of which are in the ripe age of learning about their own self-identity and personality, are left confused because they do not know what they want or how they are supposed to act. They are told that being beautiful is how you get things in the world. They learn that looks are the only important thing and therefore do not develop emotional and social intelligence that comes from interacting with others and basically just being a kid.
These little girls and the product of their over-indulgent and narcissistic mothers. These mothers have an intense desire to be watched and show off their kids because of their own self-absorption. They believe that if their daughters place high or win a pageant that it is a direct reflection of themselves and that they created this beautiful and perfect daughter when in all actuality, these girls look almost nothing like they are made up to look in the pageants.
Because these girls are raised to believe that they are the most important and the most beautiful, they do not learn that beauty also comes from the inside, not just from their looks. They tend to grow up to be narcissistic, self-indulgent, and selfish because they were never taught otherwise due to lack of discipline from their parents. They are also taught how to manipulate others using their looks, just like they do during the pageants, blowing kisses and giving judges a wink to earn a couple extra points.
Narcissistic mothers are incredibly vain and push their children into what the mothers want, not what their kids want. Most of these girls don’t get the option of whether they want to do pageants or not, they are just told to do them and grow up thinking that is what they are supposed to do. But what happens when these girls grow out of their little cutsie phase and into the awkward adolescent phase that we all know is not the most pleasant time in life? They are left thinking that they are no longer beautiful and have severe identity issues when they can’t use their cuteness to their advantage anymore. As if this time period isn’t bad enough, these girls also have to deal with the fact that their mothers are no longer satisfied with them and their “talented beauty.” This can lead girls to develop eating disorders.
Even though Toddlers and Tiaras, with its two million viewers nationwide, is entertaining and can even be funny at times, it is ultimately a sad and distasteful look at the narcissistic mothers behind these little dolled up girls. The only difference between these moms and the other narcissistic mothers in the world is that they are right in front of our eyes, blatantly showing us what goes on in the mind and the life of a narcissist living through their kids. It opens the eyes of the public to narcissism and the toll it can take on the children who are a product of it.
Celebrities and Narcissism
When people become famous, they are no longer “normal”. They are in the public eye almost 24 hours a day and their whereabouts and everyday outings are known by all who have ever picked up a magazine, watched a television, or listened to the radio for more than two seconds. They are seen as idols or superheroes to some. They are these glamorous beings who are looked at as fashion icons, relationship gurus, and talented stars.
With people telling you on a daily basis how great you are, it is without a doubt going to go to your head, boosting the ego to gargantuan proportions. If these people had even a few narcissistic qualities before they were famous, it can easily become full-blown narcissism once the fame and fortune begin to set it.
This is known as acquired situational narcissism. The differences between this and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are minimal, varying only in the onset of the disorder. When people have NPD, its onset is much earlier on in life. When it is situational, it occurs later in life or whenever the person becomes famous (sometimes infamous). Their narcissism is fed by all the people around them; their fans, tabloids, assistants, etc. always telling them how great, beautiful, and fabulous they are. If you were being told that every day, you’d start to believe it too, wouldn’t you? These celebrities don’t feel normal because they aren’t treated like normal.
There was a study done by Drew Pinsky (more commonly known as Dr. Drew) and S. Mark Young on narcissism and celebrities. They had 200 celebrities complete the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) to determine their levels of narcissism. They found that the most narcissistic of them all were the female celebrities, mostly the ones who became famous by being on reality TV shows. Next were comedians, actors and then musicians. They found that the more the talent, the less narcissistic they were. So obviously, reality TV stars would be at the top of the narcissistic totem pole, thinking their overnight fame made them something special.
The first thing I think of is ‘The Real Housewives’ series on Bravo. These women are so out of touch with reality that it makes me sick. They are famous for being famous…and because they have rich husbands taking care of them so that they can go off and get plastic surgery and go shopping instead of actually being “housewives” and taking care of the children being raised by their nannies. These women truly believe they are better than everyone else and think that they are so great that they can become singers (who can’t carry a tune), designers (who don’t actually do the designing), and other ludicrous illusionary jobs that they have no talent in whatsoever.
It seems that season after season of these shows, the people on them become more and more ridiculous. But, as much as I’d like to keep ragging on them, they are not solely to blame. People are watching their show and buying their products and encouraging them to act the way they do. Because of this, these women continue to think they are these amazing creatures that are adored by the masses. They crave the attention that is given to them and do not see that the world they live in is not the real world that the rest of us “mere mortals” inhabit.
Celebrities have a constant source of narcissistic supply. This means that there is always someone there to reassure them that they are the best, the most talented, the most beautiful. To narcissists, there is no such thing as bad publicity because any attention by the press is just another day in the limelight. If they are not getting that attention, they will act rashly and do whatever they need to do to be that center of attention that they so long to be.
Because narcissists very rarely seek treatment for narcissism, you see many celebrities seeking treatment for the symptoms of their disorder. This is why every week on TV or in tabloids you see another famous person going to rehab for drugs or substance abuse, or saying that they suffer from depression. They do not see what is triggering these symptoms. I highly doubt you will ever see Lindsay Lohan admitting to the public that she is a narcissist even though there are more times than I can count that she’s gone to jail or rehab.
Relationships between narcissistic celebrities last about as long as a piece of gum’s flavor. When narcissistic celebrities enter a relationship with one another, they see it as something new and exciting, seeing their partner’s beauty and fame. Eventually, the flame fizzles out and they move on to the next celebrity. Infidelity, materialism, and aggression are common components in these relationships, as we have all seen time and time again. They are always searching and seeking out something and someone more glamorous, someone who can up their status as a celebrity and keep them noticed by the public eye. As soon as they do, BAM, out with the old and in with the new.
As long as these narcissistic celebrities remain famous, their acquired situational narcissism will persist. If you are told something enough, you will eventually believe it, and that is exactly what happens to them. Not all celebrities are narcissistic, especially the ones who actually have talent and know that they are famous for a real and true reason. But, for those who are narcissists, they will never be in a fulfilling relationship or know what it means to be happy when not being told how wonderful they are by their fans.