The media has, after all, always detailed the exploits of the latest heartthrobs. Think Tiger Beat magazine from another era. But in the past, celebrities did their best to hide their unsavory behavior from the public. Now, getting a DUI or flashing one’s privates is considered a quick way to get your name on television. And, the book argues, the advent of the Internet gives impressionable minds near-constant access to this kind of behavior. Few public figures are better equipped to explore this subject than Pinsky. He’s been chatting up celebrities – from D- to A-listers — on Loveline for decades.
Today’s narcissistic celebrities shove their neuroses in our faces. Take Amy Winehouse, the troubled torch singer who inspired a slew of drug-related headlines. Her song “Rehab” was a narcissist’s cry of defiance, according to the book, and a troubling one when teens started singing along without realizing what her statement truly implied. Each time a new celebrity scandal occurs, the shock bar is lowered a little more. The Mirror Effect reminds us that reality show star Kim Kardashian vaulted to fame specifically from the public release of her first sex tape.
Some of the book’s material is alarming, to put it mildly. Childhood trauma, Pinsky writes, makes people vulnerable to “unhealthy levels of narcissistic traits.” And incidences of childhood trauma have increased by more than 40 percent over the past 20 years. The most jarring information involves how teenagers evolve as social beings. Their emotional development stalls in their teens, leaving them susceptible to the flood of narcissistic content heading their way.
Childhood trauma, be it the untimely death of a parent or physical abuse, is the through-line in Pinsky’s public career. He’s trying to show Americans the powerful impact early abuse has on their daily lives. The country, alas, doesn’t appear to be listening. Politicians, talking heads, and other cultural leaders rarely connect the dots between that trauma and extremely dysfunctional adults. So Pinsky will keep hammering away at a stubborn culture through every available media outlet. The Mirror Effect is simply his latest and most compelling vehicle for sounding the alarm.