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The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America Hardcover – March 17, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“When it comes to judging celebrities and their behavior, it might be best to take a good look in the mirror.” (New York Post)

“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.” (Wired)

“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.” (Babble.com)

“A compelling and intelligent study of the repercussions of today’s fame-obsessed society.” (Flavorpill.com)

“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.” (LAist)

From the Back Cover

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061582336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061582332
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #723,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I didn't expect too much.

But, I thought it was worth a read. Almost exclusively, the only thing I knew about Drew Pinsky before reading this book is that he is a psychologist who seems to turn up on all those bad shows I see while channel-surfing: celebrity re-hab shows, an MTV show with Adam Corolla (roll eyes.) However, he appeared to be addressing a subject in this book which, if done well, could be extremely helpful to modern people.

So, I was willing to take a stab at reading it.

You see, just look it up on Amazon: modern books about narcissism tend to fall roughly into one of two categories: 1) scholarly books which are written mostly for those who do or should (like therapists) have a working knowledge of narcissism, or those who are victims of narcissistic abuse who are so intrigued by the subject that they want to know all they can about it--probably because it was so painful that they don't want such abuse to sneak up on them again (I'm a good example) or 2) books written more for laypeople to help them understand and cope with the narcissistic people they find messing up their lives in some way. Such folks previously didn't know what the sam hill narcissism is or that it ever existed. They probably thought what they were going through was just people being mean or lacking empathy but instead have figured out that there is a human phenomenon called "narcissism" and "narcissistic personality disorder." They don't want to be scholars or therapists: they just want to figure out how to deal with a narcissistic person in their lives before they resort to killing him or her (yes, I'm being facetious.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I admire Drew Pinsky so I must reluctantly say that his latest effort The Mirror Effect is a disappointment. My disappointment is doubly bad since I had high expectations based on his intriguing discussion of this book on a local NPR interview. The problem is with the book's thesis or premise: Celebrities are worshipped more and more even as their behavior pushes the envelope of the definition of pathology and dysfunction and we, as their admirers, live vicariously through their actions and long to be like them. It is a bad trend, Pinsky argues, when the masses model themselves after celebrity narcissists.

I agree with Pinsky (what's there NOT to agree with?), but to base a book on the premise that celebrity behavior is not worthy of our aspirations is over familiar and self-evident and as such is not worthy of an entire book. The moral lesson is too simplistic.

What happens after Chapter One in which Pinsky defines the Mirror Effect (as I have above) is give countless "examples" of celebrity dysfunction from the usual suspects: Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan. Instead of learning any valuable lessons, the bulk of the book feels like reading gossip from US magazine.

If you're intrigued by the premise that outrageous celebrity behavior is a bad influence on society and you want lots of juicy details of that behavior, then this book is for you. On the other hand, if the premise is too obvious to be intriguing and if you're numb to celebrity stories of self-destruction, you may, like me, find this book to be a major letdown.
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Format: Hardcover
The Mirror Effect is the rarest of kind of book and the fact that is it very good is particularly impressive considering the odds. For a book of broad, social criticism written by a television personality to not only be scientific and well supported, but also calm and compassionate is a true feat.

The premise of The Mirror Effect is bold. Pinsky writes that the convergence of reality television, lowered libel standards and constant connectedness have combined to create a market for an awful kind of celebrity (Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton). When this collides with the void left by pervasive divorce, childhood trauma and drugs, we have a society that encourages and supports narcissism. To continue the Mirror Analogy, society and celebrity are both mirrors and when put together create an endless chain that recreates the same initial problem. A child who develops narcissistic tendencies because of a negligent parent sees narcissism rewarded in the famous people they respect and the celebrity interprets that attention as approval for their own dangerous and indulgent behavior. Neither is incentivized be responsible, mature or healthy.

The thesis would be significant if it were simple social criticism but it is much more than that. Pinsky and Young actually bothered to do the research, subjecting hundreds of Loveline guests to a narcissism study they later published in 2006. They didn't stop there. The Mirror Effect is full of connections to existing and well respected psychological findings, making the book both fascinating and substantive. Also, due to Pinsky's place in popular culture, it is (thankfully) current. As opposed to the religiously based arguments of someone like Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, The Mirror Effect was written with an inside line on the celebrities it criticizes.
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