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The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America


Reality TV. Celebutantes. YouTube. Sex Tapes. Gossip Blogs. Drunk Driving. Tabloids. Drug Overdoses.

Is this entertainment? Why do we keep watching? What does it mean for our kids?

In the last decade, the face of entertainment has changed radically—and dangerously, as addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky and business and entertainment expert Dr. S. Mark Young argue in this eye-opening new book. The soap opera of celebrity behavior we all ...

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The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America

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Reality TV. Celebutantes. YouTube. Sex Tapes. Gossip Blogs. Drunk Driving. Tabloids. Drug Overdoses.

Is this entertainment? Why do we keep watching? What does it mean for our kids?

In the last decade, the face of entertainment has changed radically—and dangerously, as addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky and business and entertainment expert Dr. S. Mark Young argue in this eye-opening new book. The soap opera of celebrity behavior we all consume on a daily basis—stories of stars treating rehab like vacation, brazen displays of abusive and self-destructive "diva" antics on TV, shocking sexual imagery in prime time and online, and a constant parade of stars crashing and burning—attracts a huge and hungry audience. As Pinsky and Young show in The Mirror Effect, however, such behavior actually points to a wide-ranging psychological dysfunction among celebrities that may be spreading to the culture at large: the condition known as narcissism.

The host of VH1's Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and of the long-running radio show Loveline, Pinsky recently teamed with Young to conduct the first-ever study of narcissism among celebrities. In the process, they discovered that a high proportion of stars suffer from traits associated with clinical narcissism—including vanity, exhibitionism, entitlement, exploitativeness, self-sufficiency, authority, and superiority. Now, in The Mirror Effect, they explore how these stars, and the media, are modeling such behavior for public consumption—and how the rest of us, especially young people, are mirroring these dangerous traits in our own behavior.

Looking at phenomena as diverse as tabloid exploitation ("Stars . . . they're just like us!"), reality-TV train wrecks (from The Anna Nicole Show to My Super Sweet 16 to Bad Girls Club), gossip websites (TMZ, PerezHilton, Gawker), and the ever-evolving circle of pop divas known as celebutantes (or, more cruelly, celebutards), The Mirror Effect reveals how figures like Britney and Paris and Lindsay and Amy Winehouse—and their media enablers—have changed what we consider "normal" behavior. It traces the causes of disturbing celebrity antics to their roots in self-hatred and ultimately in childhood disconnection or trauma. And it explores how YouTube, online social networks, and personal blogs offer the temptations and dangers of instant celebrity to the most vulnerable among us.

Informed and provocative, with the warm and empathetic perspective that has won Dr. Drew Pinsky legions of fans, The Mirror Effect raises important questions about our changing culture—and provides insights for parents, young people, and anyone who wonders what celebrity culture is doing to America.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Post
“When it comes to judging celebrities and their behavior, it might be best to take a good look in the mirror.”
“Pinsky spells out a theory that stars are predisposed to narcissistic personality disorder long before they become famous….[The Mirror Effect] becomes a psychology lesson with celebrities as examples.”
“The Mirror Effect is a smooth read.…It stresses the importance of learning empathy, and how to pass that on to impressionable young people.…a how-to guide for social change that promotes individual progress.”
“A compelling and intelligent study of the repercussions of today’s fame-obsessed society.”
“Drew and Mark [talk] about the changing perception of celebrities, the hidden narcissism in all of us, and what parents can do to save their kids from the cult of Miley Cyrus.” Editors
“Drew and Mark [talk] about the changing perception of celebrities, the hidden narcissism in all of us, and what parents can do to save their kids from the cult of Miley Cyrus.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061582332
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/17/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

One of the most listened-to doctors in America, Dr. Drew Pinsky is a practicing physician who is board certified in internal and addiction medicine. He is the executive producer and host of the hit VH1 reality series Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, Celebrity Rehab Presents Sober House, and Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew. On radio he is the host of the nationally syndicated program Loveline. He is the author of Cracked: Putting Broken Lives Together Again and When Painkillers Become Dangerous. Pinsky lives in Southern California with his wife, Susan, and their teenage triplets.

Dr. S. Mark Young heads the entertainment business program at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business and is the author of five books.

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Read an Excerpt

The Mirror Effect

How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America

By Drew Pinsky S. Mark Young
Copyright © 2009

Drew Pinsky
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-158233-2

Chapter One Modern Celebrity: From Marilyn to Miley

New York, New York, 1962

When Marilyn Monroe arrived at Madison Square Garden to perform at a gala Democratic Party fundraiser and birthday salute to President John F. Kennedy, her reputation as a temperamental, sexy, vulnerable, and troubled star preceded her. Her erratic behavior on the set of her latest film, Something's Got to Give, had compromised the production, and her producers had failed to keep her in Hollywood. The rumor that she was having an affair with JFK had become widely circulated, and she was ill with a high fever. However, nothing was going to prevent Marilyn from making her appearance at this historic event. When Peter Lawford introduced her, the crowed roared as she shrugged out of her white ermine stole, revealing a flesh-colored, sequined gown, so form-fitting she had literally been sewn into it. She minced across the stage and into the spotlight. Despite her unsteady appearance and disjointed performance, her oppressively sexy, nightclub-style version of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" was mesmerizing. JFK's nearly speechless reaction only added to Marilyn's legend, as the entire nation was riveted by this early, and very public, collision of sex, politics, and Hollywood.

College Park, Maryland, 1974

By the mid-1970s, Elvis Presley was deep in the throes of a dependence on prescription drugs. It should have been apparent to any observer, as evidenced by his dramatic weight gain and puffy face, his inability to remember lyrics, his slurred speech, and his rambling diatribes during his shows. According to Jerry Hopkins, author of Elvis: The Final Years, "It was a bad time for Elvis. Everything seemed to be coming apart."

The King was in rough shape when he arrived to play a concert at the University of Maryland. When Elvis arrived at the venue, he fell out of the limousine to his knees. As his band looked on in horror, he staggered up the stairs to the stage. Grabbing the microphone for balance and slurring his words, he swayed on his feet as he rambled his way through a two-hour show. Elvis ended his performance with a tirade against the rumors that he was "strung out" on drugs, imploring his fans to take his word, rather than that of movie magazines, gossip columnists, or reporters. Five months later he was hospitalized to treat an enlarged colon, the press was told. Years later, his private physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos, confirmed that the main reason for the hospitalization was to allow Elvis to undergo drug detoxification.

Los Angeles, California, 1999

By the time Robert Downey, Jr., dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, appeared in a Malibu courtroom to answer to his third parole violation in as many years, the gifted actor, musician, and physical comedian had become as famous for his addictions as for his talent. His fans and detractors knew all the details of his downward spiral. The multiple arrests, imprisonments, and stints in rehab had all made tabloid headlines; the entertainment press dissected each comeback and fall with mingled horror and relish. There was the arrest for speeding and drunk driving, along with possession of heroin, crack cocaine, and an unloaded gun. There was the bizarre incident when he was found passed out in a bed at his neighbor's house and arrested for being under the influence of drugs. His continued drug use caused him to violate his parole continually. Downey didn't deny he had a problem. "It's like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger's on the trigger," he told the judge. "And I like the taste of the gunmetal." Downey was sentenced to the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and state prison in Corcoran. A year later, he was released on bail and went to work on the popular series Ally McBeal. However, neither a year in prison, nor a critically acclaimed role on a hit series, were motivation enough to curb his self-destructive tendencies. On a break from working on the show he was arrested again, at a posh resort in Palm Springs, California, when police found cocaine and Valium in his room after receiving an anonymous 911 call.

Three very different stars; three snapshots of the kind of celebrity conduct that has spread to epidemic proportions in today's celebrity landscape. When I look at the behavior of Marilyn, Elvis, and Robert Downey, Jr., and the actions of the people around them during their careers, I see a pattern that has only been amplified in today's world.

After her death, Marilyn Monroe's addiction to opiates and other pharmaceutical drugs was well documented, as was her oversexualized behavior, her penchant for nudity, and her constant preoccupation with her image. But while she was alive, she sought stability in her relationships, marrying men like Joe DiMaggio, whom she considered a "decent" man, and Arthur Miller, the bookish American playwright. Despite her carefully maintained persona as a ditzy blonde, Marilyn cared deeply that she be perceived as a talented actress. She was ambitious in her career, and longed for a family to enhance her lonely personal life.

Her childhood was traumatic. She never knew who her father was, and her mother was institutionalized for mental illness. Marilyn spent much of her young life in foster homes and with family friends. She was sexually abused at a young age, married for the first time at sixteen, and divorced four years later. Arriving in Hollywood at the age of twenty, she used her sexuality to seduce agents, producers, directors, and the American public. Increasingly addicted to barbiturates, pain-killers, and alcohol, Marilyn nevertheless built a successful career, making thirty films in her sixteen-year career, and along the way establishing herself as a Hollywood icon.


Excerpted from The Mirror Effect by Drew Pinsky S. Mark Young Copyright © 2009 by Drew Pinsky . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2009

    Great Book

    A thoughtful and accurate read by Pinsky and Young about our celebrity obsessed culture and why fixating on narcissistic stars isn't a good think for us or our kids.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    short but sweet

    I am deeply moved by Pinsky's latest literary intallment. 'The Mirror Effect...' offers great insight & exploration, as the subject matter of narcissism could not have been addressed at a better time or in a better light.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Mirror Effect

    I purchased this book because I love Dr. Drew PLUS I really thought he could help me understand the narcissist in my life. But He spoke a lot about celebrities. I personnally think we give "those people" too much exposure. There was one chapter that talked about the disease but then went on to compare it to celebrities. I guess it did work in pointing out how celebrities are presented in the public eye....... but I wanted help in understanding the disease.
    So for those who are looking for help I wouldn't purchase this book unless you want to read more about Lindsay, etc......
    It wasn't a bad read; like I said I love Dr. Drew, he's very knowledgeable but I think this book was way too Hollywood.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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