Celebrity Crush: exploring sexuality and finding refuge in the realms of fantasy

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Whether it’s flattering Shah Rukh Khan’s outstretched arms against the pyramids of Egypt or trying to match the beat of Kajol’s charm in her shimmering saree against the backdrop of the sunset, watching our favorite stars Watching each other in love, drenched in rain in the middle of the road to scandalously rolling on a haystack truck – most Indians experience their sexual and romantic awakening through Bollywood for the first time. Celebrity infatuation is a very common part of growing up and navigating into adulthood.

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Who occupies the status of a celebrity crush?

Celebrity crushes are a form of infatuation that most young people have with popular entertainers and TV personalities. It is a detached form of an attraction that often borders on sexual and romantic fantasies. Celebrity crushes, by its definition, must involve someone unreachable but easily accessible through their work.

From obsessing over early romantic Bollywood heroes to slowly expanding our territory of pop culture knowledge and crushing Hollywood pop stars or Korean pop stars, the very nature of attraction has always served a similar goal to find sanctuary and solace in the arms of fantasy which the real world refuses to provide.

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From obsessing over early romantic Bollywood heroes to slowly expanding our territory of pop culture knowledge and crushing Hollywood pop stars or Korean pop stars, the very nature of attraction has always served a similar goal to find sanctuary and solace in the arms of fantasy which the real world refuses to provide.

However, we must always remember that it is their art and their true personality that offers us refuge and not the person they are in their real life. Being able to make this differentiation is important because it becomes very easy to get carried away with the glamorous world of their lives and become obsessively fixated on every aspect of it.

Exploring sexuality through celebrities

The teenage years are a time of yearning and yearning without actually craving a tangible expression of physical love. Celebrity crushes on youngsters open up space for them to grow in their sexual identity. From distant admiration to whimsical infatuation, adolescence is a time when most people come to terms with their sexuality by projecting their desires onto celebrities: someone unattainable but not inaccessible.

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At a time like this, celebrity crushes foster a realm of fantasy with just the right amount of media-peppered realism. This allows young people to vicariously explore their romantic and sexual fantasies through their celebrity crushes.

At the same time, care must be taken that the projection of their fantasies does not enter the celebrity’s life as a form of bullying or crude objectification. The relationship should be contained within the areas of art they produce and should not unduly transcend the life of the artist.

A safe space for young adults

Fantasizing about any celebrity from a distance can also be considered a form of expressing one’s sexuality, but is more socially accepted due to the favorable public presence of these celebrities and their assured inaccessibility.

The patriarchal society renders young girls victims of slut-shaming and harassment if they ever try to explore or experiment with their sexuality in the public domain. The situation is even more precarious and dangerous for queer people who must keep their identities hidden.

When children grow up in a constant state of surveillance by their parents, the community and society; their scope for self-exploration and experimentation becomes severely limited. Young people often turn to dark corners of the internet or unconventional places where they often fall prey to sexual predators.

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Parents should encourage and foster a space of intimacy where youngsters can exercise their whimsical infatuation with their celebrities without being scolded or shamed for it. This space will allow them to reconcile with their sexuality, and to become more aware and sensitive to their desires.

A place of refuge for young women frustrated by love

When young women enter adulthood with fanciful teenage dreams of finding a partner as sweet and caring as romantic comedies abound in promise, reality often disappoints. Young single women often have to negotiate between what they want in a partner and what they are willing to accept when it comes to dating in modern India. Yet the result is filled with unsatisfying and disreputable experiences that may at best seem like a parody of their dreams.

Shrayana Bhattacharya in her book In Desperation for Shah Rukh: India’s Lonely Young Women and the Search for Intimacy and Independence explores how young women from different social, economic, caste and religious backgrounds look to Bollywood celebrity Shah Rukh Khan when it comes to imagining the ideal embodiment of a romantic partner.

Shrayana Bhattacharya in her book In Desperation for Shah Rukh: India’s Lonely Young Women and the Search for Intimacy and Independence explores how young women from different social, economic, caste and religious backgrounds look to Bollywood celebrity Shah Rukh Khan when it comes to imagining the ideal embodiment of a romantic partner.

The author writes “While Shah Rukh’s visions might serve as a mere escape from the opulent homes of Lodhi Road, indulging in fandom becomes a form of affirmation, even protest, among poor and working-class women.”

She takes a panoramic view of the act of loving Shah Rukh, in all his Bollywood glory and boy-next-door charms. “Espousing the virtues of Shah Rukh marks a woman’s enthusiasm for expressing her desire rather than becoming desirable.”

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In this context, Shah Rukh’s personality as an individual becomes almost irrelevant to these women’s desire for him. The act of “seeking” finds its expression in the men whom these young women see as potential partners. When disappointed or heartbroken, turning to the fantasy he provides on the big screen is in itself an act of empowerment and self-love. Shrayana Bhattacharya writes in the preface to her book, “These women trusted Shah Rukh when they found the real world and all its pandemics and inhospitable practicalities. Because only the deepest dissatisfaction with reality drives us to live in fantasy.

It encourages women and gay men to embrace a life of celibacy rather than struggling in unhappy relationships. It gives them hope that a decent partner, embodying all the virtues of their celebrity crush, exists somewhere, even if only in their fantasy.


Featured image source: Telegraph India

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