Saturn-Neptune Opposition III: 'Reality' as Entertainment, and the Deflation of Stars


Open any supposed 'celebrity' magazine, and you'll find red-carpet pics and mini-profiles on plenty of folks who are famous due to little or no performance, creation or accomplishment of their own—other than, of course, 'being themselves'.

Unless you closely case the myriad reality shows on TV, or diligently stay abreast of celeb-living through such outlets, you might not even know who these people are… the Kristin Cavallaris, Stavros Niarchoses, and Fonzworth Bentleys of our world.*

(*They are, respectively, a star of MTV's Laguna Beach, Paris Hilton's on-and-off Greek heir boyfriend, and P. Diddy's former umbrella-handler and manservant.)

And meanwhile, the actual stars of our pop-culture—those who possess that elusive 'X factor' among their impeccable talents or effortless magnetism, and thusly exude star-quality from their pores—are being summarily downgraded to 'our level', through constant publicizing of their foibles (i.e., a more 'human' side). A prime example? The regular US Weekly feature displaying unflattering candid snaps of our favorite celebs engaging in activities like pumping gas or picking their nose, under the all-too-self-gratifying caption: 'They're just like US!' (Not exactly.)

By no means can I fairly attribute this trend—that is, the simultaneous (1) celebritization of rather ordinary people and (2) removal-from-pedestal of our cherished stars—to too recent a phenomenon, as we've seen it all going this way for a while. And yet, there's also something to it that reverberates poignantly with the current Saturn-Neptune opposition… an aspect that pits reality (Saturn) against glamour (Neptune), and reveals a serious view of how far the two extremes have become perverted, or, in this case, morphed into each other.

At its most successful, the entertainment industry functions through a wise combination of Saturn and Neptune principles… providing us culture-consumers with enchanting escapes into fantasy (Neptune), while carrying out quite a bit of technical work to accomplish said feat and still earn a profit (Saturn). Of course, such happy blends of planetary archetypes are usually found in a conjunction or trine—and not necessarily in the opposition, a 'face-off' aspect where the two planets feel more like bitter rivals.

As I written before, the Saturn-Neptune opposition (roughly in effect from late 2005 through August 2007) brings with it an inherent disillusion… a sobering awareness that where a guiding vision once inspired us, we now confront a much less hope-filled version. Applying this theme to the currents in pop-culture, then, we can see how the illusions of 'Hollywood' (as metaphor, not geographic locale) aren't doing so good a job of delivering us from our mundane realities, with seamless spectacles headlined by larger-than-life 'stars' intended to leave us clueless about how they were produced… or forgetful of where our own lives are lacking.

Rather than become swept up in epic narratives or show-stopping performances featuring our beloved icons, those fantasies have been largely supplanted by the notion that, thanks to American Idol and Big Brother, we might alternatively find ourselves on the boob-tube or at the top of the charts… that maybe we don't need any special qualities or God-given talents to become famous. In this reversal of the terms of celebrity, we don't privilege that certain luminous 'star power' only a few intrinsically possess. Instead, we elevate the status of 'the everyman'—and knock Hollywood royalty right out from center-stage.

This perfectly fits the symbolism of Saturn and Neptune's current sign positions, especially as they dialogue with one another across the opposition. Saturn in Leo poses 'a challenge to the king's power'… insisting that individuals who become too big for their britches, or otherwise bloat their self-importance beyond what's been legitimately earned, are cut down to size. When applied to celebrity culture, Saturn in Leo humbles the cult-of-personality egos of those stars who have 'bought their own press' and flaunted a mistaken idea the world revolves around them. 'Guess again, Leo,' says Saturn.

(Case in point: Leo poster-child Madonna who's faced mega-negative publicity for adopting a kid from Malawi while skirting the official adoption process, as if the rules didn't apply to her. Another case: Leo Jennifer Lopez, from whom we haven't heard much in these past couple Saturn-in-Leo years—especially compared with the overexposure she garnered when Jupiter moved through Leo in '03 and 'J.Lo' was everywhere!)

Neptune in Aquarius, meanwhile, is all about the idealization of common humanity, or the sense there's something entrancingly appealing about everyday people doing everyday things. Aquarius takes issue with the Leonine concept of the 'specialness' of one shining individual, by alternately proposing that all individuals have their own 'star quality'… which comes out in all the more compelling ways when they're brought together into prepackaged groupings. In other words, the reality TV prototype of 'seven [or 12 or 16] strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped' is also very much Aquarius in action. And leave it to Neptune to make this path-to-fame of 'playing yourself' on-camera so darned glamorous.

Incidentally, The Real World, MTV's grandpapa to this 'reality' trend, premiered on May 21, 1992, when the Moon was placed in Aquarius… a most apt sign to demonstrate the deep popular draw within such entertainment. With Aquarius as their central focus, reality 'stars' only fulfill their celebrity destiny insofar as we witness them acting out in relation to the other folks in their house, as they must 'form alliances' to vote one another out or compete against each other for the viewers' fanship… or even in the L.A. club scene, where they leapfrog over the flavor-of-last-month versions of themselves to date Paris or Lindsay or their hangers-on. This is in sharp contrast to the Leo concept of celebrity, according to which a superstar might walk into any room anywhere at any time and command the attention, due simply to her powerful presence and seductive aura.

In thinking further about the Saturn-Neptune opposition, an aspect that defines our present-day circumstances, we may be spying the 'bottoming out' of this celebration of mediocrity… for once Saturn leaves Leo in September, we're likely to move past this deflationary disdain for our stars. We might further find that those whose authentic purpose here is indeed to dazzle us with their 'star quality' will recede from the pages of our trashier pubs, more fiercely protecting the sanctity of their offstage existences, so their public personas may once again hold the larger-than-life projections of our collective fantasies—without being soiled by the paparazzi catching them at the supermarket sans makeup.

At the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if our major entertainment suppliers stop promulgating the careers of celebs who possess no genuine reason for their fame. As reality TV gives way to YouTube video-blogging and extends the mode of fame-production to an even broader cross-section of humanity, the big-bucks networks and studios and labels will have to provide something bigger (read: with more star-power) to compete. With Saturn heading into Virgo, along with Jupiter's move into Capricorn, I expect hard work to come back into vogue as a worthier reason to award an individual with public recognition.

Of course, if the Age of Aquarius really is coming to pass, then maybe we'll just continue down this road… and bid a more lasting adieu to our former idea of celebrities being special. Is true 'stardom' dead, or just in hibernation?