Happiness in Hollywood: Are Celebrities Truly Happy?

Rachel Sheumaker Summer – 1

Happiness. Even the word makes you feel good. But what exactly is it and how do we define it? Some say happiness is the same as pleasure or joy, contentedness or amusement, bliss or enjoyment. Some say it is having more positive emotions and thoughts than negative ones. Happiness is hard to define because every person has a slightly different view of the word. Some people, like myself, cannot even define the word because it is just a feeling inside of us that cannot be explained in proper words. But in the broadest sense, most people would agree that happiness is a mental or emotional state of positive wellbeing. ‘Most people’ does not include Aristotle because he would have disagreed with this statement.

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that people have misconceived ideas of what happiness is because they think “living well and doing well” is happiness, and some men identify things like pleasure or money or even health as happiness. But happiness, as Aristotle says, is “something final and self-sufficient”.[1] This means that happiness is the end in the way that everything is done for the sake of happiness. All men seek the same end, which is happiness itself. Happiness is also self-sufficient, but not in the typical sense; happiness is not purely sufficient for man by himself but for the community. Happiness must also be in accordance to virtue, and virtue “is a habit or trained faculty of choice” that lies between excess and deficiency, which are characteristics of the vices.[2] He also argues that the rational faculty of man is the highest faculty, so in other words, the more we reason the happier we are.

Now another philosopher, John Stuart Mill, defines happiness in a slightly different sense. Mill defines happiness as the absence of pain or in other words, pleasure. But pleasures are not simply just pleasures; there are higher and lower pleasures, which illustrate the distinction of quality within pleasure. Higher pleasures relate to intellect; this would include reading or going to the opera. Lower pleasures relate to the physical aspect, and this would include eating or sex. Mill argues that higher pleasures are better. In his words, it is “better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied”.[3] He also argues the point that happiness pursued at the expense of social happiness is immoral; therefore, one must act to produce the greatest collective happiness among human beings. Our own happiness is not what matters “but the greatest amount of happiness altogether”.[4] We must have knowledgeable people who work towards higher pleasures to get this total happiness.

So now after looking at these two views on happiness, I start to wonder if celebrities, who seem to be some of the happiest people in the world, are truly happy.

From my perspective, celebrities have this incredible lifestyle filled with happiness at every corner. They live comfortable lives in their nice houses, and they get to do what they are passionate about for a living. That could be singing, acting, modeling, dancing, creating music, or playing a sport. Celebrities seem to be living on this cloud of happiness. But is this ‘happiness’ that we supposedly see true happiness? Is it just the wealth and fame that clouds the eyes of both us and celebrities into thinking that what they have is happiness?

The Jonas Brothers were a pop group that formed in 2005 and consisted of three brothers: Joe, Nick and Kevin Jonas. Growing up, the three boys had always been passionate about music and were signed to Columbia records in 2005. They opened for various artists on tours and quickly gained some popularity. Their songs were featured in popular movies and T.V. shows, and The Jonas Brothers made an appearance on the hit Disney T.V. show Hannah Montana. The boys were becoming more and more popular amongst young girls. They went on tour and acted and sang in the Disney Channel movie Camp Rock with their friend, Demi Lovato. The boys wrote and released more music, went on more tours, and gained more popularity; their wealth and fame was quickly accumulating. At one point they even had their own show, Jonas L.A.

Then on May 1, 2012, the Jonas Brothers announced that they had split from their current label, Hollywood Records. After that, the band started to go downhill. Nothing too crazy happened, but right before their comeback tour was supposed to happen, the band announced that they had officially split.

The brothers now each pursue their individual passions. Nick Jonas decided to continue his music career; he has released his own album, gone on his own tour, and worked as a creative director. He is also in the process of creating a co-owned label called Safehouse Records with Demi Lovato. Nick continues to be an ambassador for Bayer Diabetes Care, which promotes the idea for young people to manage their diabetes.[5] Similarly to Nick, Joe Jonas continued with a solo music career. He eventually shifted away from that and now just sort of floats around like many celebrities do. He isn’t making music or acting; he just seems to be taking life as it comes and going with the flow. On the other hand, music was not a high priority for Kevin. He decided to focus on his wife, Danielle and starting a family. Danielle and Kevin starred in their own reality show called “Married to Jonas”. Kevin and Danielle now have a daughter and put their show on pause so that they could raise their daughter in a more normal environment.[6]

Out of the three boys, Aristotle would probably say that Kevin is the happiest, but even then he is not truly happy. As I noted previously, Aristotle says that when we reason, we are happy, and happiness is an activity in accordance to virtue. Kevin would be the happiest because he is being self-sufficient in the way that he is taking care of his family. Joe would be the least happy according to Aristotle because he isn’t using his rational faculty in any way. He is just floating through life doing what he wants to do with the help of the money he accumulated from The Jonas Brothers. Nick would be in between his two brothers. He has continued to write and produce music, which takes at least some reason, and he works as an ambassador for a Diabetes organization, which helps the aggregate community.

John Stuart Mill would say that the three brothers are happy to a degree, but not truly happy. Being in the band together was in some ways causing them pain because of the internal problems of the group. Splitting up, therefore created pleasure, which is happiness. On a general scale, Joe experiences lower pleasures, and Nick and Kevin experience mostly higher pleasures. Joe experiences lower pleasures because he really does not have pleasures of intellect, while on the other hand Nick experiences a lot of intellectual and imaginative pleasures through his work with music. And Nick’s work with Bayer Diabetes Care is an act that works towards producing a great amount of happiness among more people. Kevin experiences higher pleasures because he is raising his daughter, which works the mind and is a pleasure that is for a greater number of people.

According to both philosophers, The Jonas Brothers are somewhat happy, but I beg to differ. I agree with a lot of what Aristotle and John Stuart Mill have to say about happiness, but I think that they are overthinking happiness. Happiness is something inside of us. It is part of who we are as human beings. I would argue that the Jonas Brothers and many people in Hollywood are truly happy because they are doing what they love and are passionate about. Nick realized that music is what makes him truly happy, so he continued to work with music. Joe realized that maybe music isn’t what makes him happy, and relaxing and taking things one step at a time is what he needs to make him truly happy right now. Kevin realized that music makes him happy but having a family is what makes him truly happy. Their ideas of happiness may not be in accordance with Aristotle and John Stuart Mill, but that’s ok because everyone has their own view on what true happiness is.

[1] “The Nicomachean Ethics.” Aristotle in How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, Ursuline Academy, 2015.

[2] “The Nicomachean Ethics.”

[3] “Utilitarianism.” John Stuart Mill in How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, Ursuline Academy, 2015.

[4] “Utilitarianism.”

[5] “The Jonas Brothers.” Bio.com. 2015. Accessed June 28, 2015.

[6] “The Jonas Brothers.”

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