When I first heard Liam Neeson was visiting Boston College with his son on Tuesday, my natural response was to hunt him down. Why? Because Liam Neeson, that’s why. So I packed up my books, and by the time I made it outside, a small mob was already gathered outside of Devlin, staking out what presumably was the actor’s limousine. I waited with them for a couple minutes, but when the 61-year-old Irishman failed to produce himself, I took matters into my own hands-I had to find him myself.
Somewhere between creepily profiling the parents in the admissions office, conspicuously walking back and forth through the Quad, and finding myself wandering aimlessly through what appeared to be the offices of the environmental science department, I began to question my motives. What if I did see Liam Neeson? Would I say anything to him, or would I even be able to speak? What would he say to me? Wait-what if he tells me to get away? How would my life be compromised if Liam Neeson told me to get away? Would I get away? Would he make me get away? Isn’t Liam Neeson a little old to have a kid looking at colleges? Why did I even care?
I wasted an hour for the chance to see Liam Neeson for no more than 30 seconds, knowing the odds of even that were slim. I never saw Liam Neeson, but I did waste a good chunk of the afternoon that I could’ve spent studying for my business law exam later that day. To be honest, I’ve never understood the obsession with celebrities-if anything, I’ve looked down on it. And now I’m left with an unusual dilemma. Suddenly, I’m not so sure I understand myself.
Why should it matter that Liam Neeson was casually walking around the Quad? And why did BC feel the need to update Agora with the details of Kobe Bryant’s visit to a marketing class? When we hear about these celebrities coming to our school, there’s a sense of validation. If an extraordinary person bothers with such ordinary things-going on a college tour, attending an evening class-our own lives begin to feel a little less ordinary. Liam Neeson isn’t just a man. Liam Neeson is sublime. So logically, spending an afternoon waiting for Liam Neeson is in itself sublime.
Or is it just creepy? Later that day, I caught Fr. Leahy walking through Stokes. I wondered what his thoughts were on Liam Neeson, or if he even watched movies, for that matter. I imagined what BC might be like if students hunted down Leahy in the same manner, and it soon made sense why they wouldn’t.
There’s a very gloomy way of looking at the whole day-nobody cared about seeing Liam Neeson. Nobody really thought about what they’d say to him. Nobody cared what his visit meant. Seeing him for 30 seconds meant next to nothing. No one cares that much about seeing Liam Neeson-unless, that is, Liam Neeson might see us.
Our love of celebrities has little to do with who they are or what they’ve done. I daresay most of those whispering about Neeson in the Quad hadn’t seen more than one or two of his films, and if I really cared about the man, I could have easily spent that afternoon checking one of his films from O’Neill or doing some research on the man.
The obsession with celebrities has little to do with the stars and everything to do with ourselves. If taking pictures of Leahy as he walked up the Million Dollar Staircase-or making a witty remark about his visit to campus-could get nearly the attention on social media as Neeson’s visit, perhaps we’d stalk that man, too.
So is it shameful that I spent my afternoon hunting down an innocent man and with no motive other than the self-gratification in seeing him? When you frame it that way, it is somewhat indefensible-but maybe there’s more to it.
Maybe it’s not all too different from putting aside that paper to spend an hour in the snow or stopping on a busy day to take a picture of Gasson. If we can’t find time for these little escapes, if we close ourselves off to adventure, what’s the work for anyway? There’s nothing more joyfully human than standing outside Devlin, getting pelted by snow, waiting for Liam Neeson