'Celebrities Can Teach Teens About Politics And Morality,' Says Academic

Schoolchildren should take a GREATER interest in celebrity culture to boost their understanding of politics, morality and the economy, according to leading academic.

Oh, please! Like they need any MORE encouragement!

James Bennett, a reader in television and digital culture at Royal Holloway, University of London, said kids who regularly read about the lives of pop stars and actors are more likely to develop a 'well-rounded knowledge' of modern life.

The eminent academic cited Angelina Jolie's breast cancer surgery and Madonna adopting children from Malawi as examples of how celebrities can introduce children to important issues.

At which point, you might think: Perhaps he's got a point!

Dr Bennett said: "From Angelina Jolie's breast cancer surgery, to Madonna adopting children from Malawi, celebrities are constantly used to tell stories that spark important conversations and debates about moral, political, economic and cultural issues.

"Today's teenagers benefit from discussing these topics with their peers. Indeed, we shouldn't patronise young people by assuming they are sucked into celebrity culture.

"They understand the difference between reality TV stars and politicians – but more importantly, they understand how both can use PR machines and the trappings of celebrity to boost their popularity."

In further comments, Dr Bennett said it was 'patronising' to assume that teenagers taking an interest in celebrities were being 'sucked into' a lifestyle that promotes a shallow desire for instant gratification.

Dr Bennett insisted that celebrities could teach young people how to be role models and how not to behave in society.

He added: "They also learn to be quite critical readers of media as they realise that celebrities are constructed. From social media to newspapers they see celebrity images are constructed and become quite smart readers of them."

He was speaking before the international 'Celebrity Studies Journal' conference at the university, which is debating the role of celebrity in modern society.

Topics being discussed include the impact of Hollywood, the role of celebrity animals and the influence of TV chefs.