Caulfield (Health Law and Policy/Univ. of Alberta; The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness, 2012) dispels the myths of celebrity-endorsed products and the cult of fame that they sell.
More than ever, we view celebrities as paragons of success and emulate celebrity lifestyles in increasingly extreme ways—e.g., Kim Kardashian–like butt implants. With such power and influence, it’s no surprise that celebrities take advantage of their status to endorse products that benefit their brands. The so-called authority of celebrities hawking wares is especially questionable when these products sell a “healthy” lifestyle or guarantee a more youthful complexion, for example. Caulfield sees these products as dangerous and shallow money-grabs rather than legitimate health plans. However, despite his willingness to burst the celebrity bubble, the author admits that he is not out to attack celebrities or celebrity. In fact, he admits his love of celebrity; as part of his excursion, he auditioned for American Idol to get into the minds of the fame-obsessed. Beginning with Gwyneth Paltrow’s famous Clean Cleanse, Caulfield systematically dismantles the notion that celebrity products have any scientific foundation to justify their claims, and he even counters that many of them actually have the opposite effect. Caulfield goes beyond simply calling out celebrities as modern-day snake oil salesmen. He delves deeper into the social phenomenon of fame itself, asking why celebrities have this power in the first place and why most people are willing to heed their advice even when they are not surprised to learn that celeb products boast phony claims. This disconnect, writes the author, is even more perplexing when he considers how rare fame is and how devastating it can be.
An intelligent mix of research and pop culture, Caulfield’s analysis of celebrity trends gets to the heart of America’s obsession with the fame monster.