Trickle-down affections

Or: do celebrity archetypes inform our snap-judgments?

No matter how hard we humans play at ideas like open-mindedness, reservation of judgement, and rationality we can’t help ourselves but to make instantaneous snap-judgments about things. That’s no damnation, it’s just the way our brains work. We see something new and our industrious little minds seek connections and corollaries. If our minds find acceptably concrete evidence lacking, they simply move down a tier, from direct experience to indirect, and make whatever connections seem most likely. Our minds have no qualms about simply guesstimate and making the closest match they can manage. It’s how we categorize the world around us and make sense of reality.

In that celebrities are a wide-spread and shared point of associative reference I wonder how much they color our perception of the strangers all around us? Take the example pictured in the thumbnail above: Paul Giamatti.

During the period when the movie Sideways was moving through our culture like wildfire did the common perception of him physically combine with attributes of his character intellectually and emotionally, to form a kind of reference point for short, balding, goateed men everywhere? Which is to say during that period did our minds involuntarily find that strangers around us, of similar physical proportion, were a bit more endearing? Perhaps even a bit more amusing or likable? Did short, balding, goateed strangers everywhere, unfounded though it might be, grow slightly more well rounded and “fleshed-out”  in in the eyes of we judges?

An obvious example might be Michael Jackson impersonators. I have to assume that since his trial on charges of pedophilia, and the resulting shift of public opinion,  their interactions with strangers must have become more complex and their business less lucrative. Agreed? So why shouldn’t it be the same for more subtle variations?

For example:

Did horse-faced women walking the streets suddenly become a bit more attractive during sarah Jessica Parker’s ballyhooed stint on Sex and the City?

Did obese tackily-dressed grease-balls in the office-place become somewhat less laughable and simultaneously more imposing after the cast of The Soprano’s became popular?

Did severe-looking suited shrews seem even more hideous and shrew-like after Ann Coulter’s ascendance?

Did poindexters with glasses and bowl-cuts seem suddenly more attractive to the devious among the opposite sex after Bill Gates became the single richest man on the planet?

Did vacuous, squinty-eyed, good-ol-boys and bald, permanently scowling, humorless suits suddenly seem even less affective and trustworthy after Bush and Cheney’s second term began?

I’m not sure, that’s why I ask. But it does seem likely, even leaving aside my poor examples here, that celebrities which occupy easily recognizable physical archetypes must inform our judgement when it comes to the strangers around us, and let’s face it, really, everyone is a stranger.

What say ye?

06.23. filed under: !. inquiries. life. people. 3