Celeb Worship a Sign American Dream Is Dying

George Packer thinks our celebrity culture is exacerbating inequality
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2013 1:04 PM CDT
Celeb Worship a Sign American Dream Is Dying
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in a scene from "The Great Gatsby."   (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Watching the Great Gatsby might give you a shock of recognition, because it hails from a time like our own: One that's lousy with inequality, observes George Packer in the New York Times. Celebrities, he argues, function as "new household gods" for a population losing faith, and they thrive especially "when inequality is soaring and faith in institutions … is falling." Strong institutions hold a society together, ensuring we all play by the same rules. But today's celebrities are all entrepreneur heroes who "either buy institutions, or 'disrupt' them."

"If you are the institution, you don't need to play by its rules." Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard disciplinary woes are part of his origin myth, as are Jay-Z's crack dealer days. These stories—and the apparent diversity of the superclass "dangles before us the myth that in America, anything is possible—even as the American dream quietly dies, a victim of the calcification of a class system that is nearly hereditary. ... We have gone back to Gatsby's time—or something far more perverse." Click for Packer's full column. (Read more income inequality stories.)

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