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The Mirror Effect: Too Much Britney Is Bad for You

The dangers teenagers face as they model their behavior after celebrity narcissists.

by
Christian Toto

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April 25, 2009 - 12:00 am
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Dr. Drew Pinsky is watching countless hours of reality television and perusing too many Us Weekly magazines, but he’s doing it for our own good.

Pinsky, the host of the long-running Loveline radio show as well as VH1′s Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, thinks the narcissism on regular display via tabloid-style media is hurting the country. He puts his thesis together in his latest book, The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America. Co-authored by Dr. Mark S. Young, the book highlights their findings regarding the narcissistic levels of today’s celebrities.

Even though the book recounts the gossipy behavior of Britney, Lindsay, and co., The Mirror Effect isn’t a light read. It’s a penetrating assessment of a culture gone awry, and some of the text appears as if it was stripped straight out of an academic journal. Still, it’s written with substance and just enough style for laymen and educators alike. Behavioral researchers will find plenty to mull over here, and those titillated by the book’s gossip quotient will stick around to see the cultural x-rays.

Pinsky isn’t a player in the culture wars, eschewing ideology and party labels, but his latest book could change that. His writing details the troubles associated with shoddy parenting, sexualized behavior, and loose morals, but it doesn’t do so from a spiritual or even a moral perspective. Pinsky uses research to show what can go wrong with teens who model their behavior after famous narcissists such as Paris Hilton and her ilk,  although he quickly skips over the criticism aimed at his Celebrity Rehab program.

It’s easy to thumb through The Mirror Effect and wonder if the authors shouldn’t lighten up. What harm can be done watching some reality television? Vulnerable populations are always at risk to outside influences, be it the shady friend next door, the R-rated movie that could give them nightmares, or bad ideas on how to behave around others. A child who grows up with two good parents and some healthy self-esteem will likely brush off whatever effects tabloid TV have on them, right?

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