Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stars in Their Eyes

With the recent death of Heath Ledger and Britney’s continued meltdown I’ve been thinking a lot about our obsession with celebrity. Robert Wuhl (very underrated funnyman) did a couple of specials on HBO called Assume the Position that goes on to show that America has always been a society of “star fuckers” as he called it. He contends that throughout history it’s been the most famous persons of the time that got the credit for famous discoveries and events not necessarily the most important people. So why do we care more about the death of Heath Ledger then your best friend’s grandmother? Why is what’s happening to Britney, LiLo, and Brangelina keep us more enthralled then what’s going on at our kids’ school? Why do we give a crap about no talents like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian who are famous just because their parents are (and because of sex tapes) more then the doctors out there trying to cure cancer? I’m not really sure but we do. I’m going to take at look at this from my own twisted perspective and as I tend to get long winded (I know you’re shocked) I think I’ll break it into at least blogs (please, hold the applause).

So, onward and upward!

Call them the media, paparazzi, or cockroaches; whatever you call them they may be the people most responsible for this star fucking society. Never at any time has there been more different media devoted to famous people. Sure, there were always the tabloids and society columns etc but we now have at least 2 full time networks, 8 billion internet sites, radio shows, etc all telling us who to love, who to hate, who’s in and who’s out. It seems the media has 2 jobs. One is to build up celebrity to a point they couldn’t possibly live up to those standards and the other is when they don’t live up to these standards to drag them down. It’s a fine line between fame and infamy.

I always find that when the media gets behind someone and then turns on them it’s usually because there is some aspect of their personal lives, which they feel the public would disapprove. OK, I get that but here’s the thing, just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you are a good or nice person. If you were a mean, nasty, anti-social prick before you became famous, why pretend to be nice now? I always love the concept of they “owe” their fans something be it an autograph, etc. Um, no, no they don’t. They are doing a job; you pay them to do their job because what they do entertains you. That’s where the obligation ends. If what they do sops entertaining you, you stop paying to see it. That’s it. Because you do something well does that mean you now deserve to have cameras in your face, people asking for autographs while at dinner with your family, or having stories about your personal life dragged out in the open? Not where I’m from. Who doesn’t have a co-worker who’s a prick? A parent of your kid’s friend with a drinking problem? A relative cheating on their spouse? Are they laid to waste in front of the whole world because of this? No, not hardly. Does it make them lesser people? Do you think more of Johnny Depp knowing he’s the most accommodating man in Hollywood to fans or less of Will Ferrell because he’s the least? Well, probably.

I guess in reality celebrity is like making a deal with the devil. There is nary a star today who could have climbed to the heights they have with out cozying up to the media or at least not being combative with them. They are happy to ride this wave to super stardom then are surprised when their very relationship with the media opens the cracks in the foundation for their demise. Britney was just a cute kid from the Mickey Mouse Club that could carry a tune (sort of) until the media turned her into an underage sexpot and biggest super star since Madonna. When, however, her unstable behavior came to the forefront they were the same one’s tearing her apart. And you know what? You loved it (well except the “Leave Britney Alone” guy…um, girl, um, whatever). We call this Schadenfreude (you of course remember my famous schadenfreude blog, right?) It’s human nature to feel a little bit good about someone who had it all losing it. It’s a slippery slope people.

So, really, why do we care? Quite simply is famous people are created by the media to have so much more then we do, lead such glamorous, perfect, fabulous lives that we live in awe of them and envy their lives. What we don’t realize is that every one of them, famous or not, are human beings and subject to human frailty just like you and me. The problem is when they show the weak side of their humanity we are ready to jump on them with golf shoes. Me? I say let them live tier lives. If you enjoy their shows, movies, music, or sport then great. What they do with their own time should be their own. So, leave Britney alone, let Heath rest in piece and not become the new (and trust me, he’s not) James Dean, let Tom Brady visit his super model girlfriend in peace without making the front page. Let’s enjoy them for who they are and what they do and worry about more important shit like say, our own lives.

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