Important Notice

Special captions are available for the humor-impaired.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Celebrity Worship

I have a simple rule when it comes to journalism: In general I don't read magazines that have pictures of celebrities on the cover. Magazines I do read: New Yorker, Harpers, Atlantic Monthly, Gourmet, Bon Appetite, Outside, and Men's Journal. Those were listed in order of preference. While at my gym riding the exercise bike I will read the occasional rag journal when I have forgotten to bring a better one myself. The problem with these is that there is little to read. I have one thing to say to everyone out there obsessed with the lives of celebrities: Get your own life! We really need to extinguish the mythology surrounding the lives of celebrities. Their lives are at least as stupid and pointless as most people's. They aren't super-beings in any way, shape, or form. Tom Cruise is, like, 5'6." I'm only 5' 9" so it's not like I'm for putting it to short people but really folks, he's practically a midget. Most of the celebrities I have seen aren't the least bit remarkable in person. Let's stop building this hagiography around these newest dwellers on Mount Olympus.

The crazy thing is that our collective obsessions really have little to do with talent. It's not like any of the people going to the academy awards ceremony is an up and coming Mozart or Voltaire. Actors simply read the words written by another, anonymous person who may actually have talent. A friend of mine once said to me that Frank Sinatra was a greater musical genius than Mozart. How does one argue with such a demented soul? If you think even a second that Britney Spears can sing then you need to learn a thing or two about music. She has a small voice; she has a talent that shouldn't have gone beyond the high school pageant or a state fair amateur contest. She's a teeny-bopper that has reached the mainstream. She seems about as comfortable in her role as a sex symbol as the teen hooker Jodie Foster played in Taxi Driver. I am not the first to say this but this stuff isn't really music--it's a product.

I would love nothing more than to simply ignore the current pop phenomena but that is increasingly more difficult as their corporate sponsors shove them down our throats until we choke on them. I feel like a veal in a fattening pen. I'm not sure when I am due for slaughter or what exactly that entails but I see it as inevitable. Fight as hard as I do to insulate myself from the worst that pop culture throws at me I am still soaking a lot of it in through osmosis: headlines at the supermarket check-out, snatches of TV, conversations with fellow workers. Although I couldn't name one of her songs I could still pick Britney out of a police line up.

My heroes are mostly all dead. Dead white males, a pejorative phrase used these days by people who probably don't fit any of those three adjectives. The people who could use all three of those things to describe themselves had absolutely nothing to do with any of those adjectives ((oops, I forgot about Hemingway and the dead part). I find it curious that others could find fault with them. People who do find fault with the DWM (dead white males) for the most part understand little about history. It would be easy for us to judge Thomas Jefferson harshly because he owned slaves but slavery was legal in his time and wasn't thought poorly of in the circles in which he moved. To criticize him for it makes about as much sense as making fun of the clothes he wore. Speaking out about racism in our culture is cool. In Jefferson's era speaking out against racism would have been revolutionary and extraordinarily brave. How many people in our culture today are extraordinarily brave? I can't think of any. I'll take DWM over today's celebrities every time.

The current trend in TV is in so-called reality shows. In these programs ordinary people undergo a sort of telegenic apotheosis and are transformed into celebrities right before your eyes. When you get down to it that is the ultimate goal of many kids in our society: to become celebrities. They will go to incredible lengths to get to that status: performing bone smashing stunts for the camera, porn, debasing themselves in worse ways on talk shows, etc. I see the rise in the popularity in karaoke not as an interest in singing but in the pathetic desire for the participants to become some sort of half-assed rock star if only for the time it takes them to howl through La Vida Loca. People have been systematically brain-washed into believing that money and fame liberate a person from all of the responsibilities of life.

Even these weblog things are people's attempt at becoming famous in some way, of making contact with perfect strangers instead of working on personal relationships. Few that I have read are about communicating ideas or developing a voice. I have news for everyone: personal journals, diaries or whatever you wish to call them are the most horrifically boring genre of literature ever attempted. Now people's personal letters, letters meant for someone else, now that's a different story. Cut out the phony personal drama and show me how your brain works and then maybe you'll have something that someone else may care to read.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you can't say something nice, say it here.