Friday, May 14, 2010

Sh*t I Don't Understand: Celebrity Gossip

Tonight, at 7:30, on The Insider, we discuss the brand of sneakers Kate Gosselin wears to the gym, don't miss it! And later, at 11:30 on TMZ, it's Lindsay Lohan getting drunk and pissing herself in a limo, followed by Clint Howard getting into a cab at LAX! It's guaranteed to be the sixty most mind-stimulating minutes of your day!

Why, people, why? Why is celebrity gossip such a big business? You can't go through the checkout aisle in the food store or surf TV channels for 3 minutes without being slapped in the face by celebrity magazines and celebrity TV shows, every one of them making a pitch at the lowest part of our minds. Oh, look, shocking news, Sandra Bullock's tatted-up biker husband who has a pornstar ex-wife was cheating on her! Oh man, I really had hope for those two, it was such a storybook romance.

When did we become such a voyeuristic society obsessed with other peoples' business? 40 years ago, were people crooning for photos of a doped-up Jim Morrison, or did they care who Jack Nicholson was dating? And it's one thing for a bunch of chatterbox wives down at the country club to be spread rumors about who in the neighborhood has a kid that eats glue. It's another thing to immerse yourself in the goings-on of people that you don't know, haven't ever met, and most likely will never meet.

Case in point: magazines paying millions of dollars for the right to be the first to publish pictures of a newborn celebrity baby. Who the hell cares? Babies all look alike, for one, and they also hardly look anything like what they will eventually grow up to be. For all you know that could be someone else's baby on the cover of OK!. You can't tell the difference, and you're never going to meet or know that kid anyway, so what on earth is the obsession?

Western culture loves to put its rich and famous in a fishbowl. They're living a life that most of us will never even sniff, but that doesn't mean we can't observe, observe, observe. I think the obsession is that we like to scrutinize every waking second of these important people's lives, hoping upon hope that an unfortunate moment gets caught on camera or, if we're really lucky, someone gets arrested, hooked on drugs or booze, involved in some sort of cheating scandal, or all of the above. Ever notice the proportion of negative news to positive news when it comes to celebrities? Some doctor could cure AIDS, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and the common cold all in the same week and if People had the interview with the guy, they'd stick it on page 26 because pages 2-25 would already be dedicated to what Elin Woods had for lunch last week and how that possibly indicates the imminent divorce of her and Tiger.

Apparently what really makes common people feel good about themselves is the ability to poke fun at celebrities for being human. Let me ask you this - how do you think any of us would look if we had cameras in our face 20 hours a day? That's what cracks me up when I see people gasping and chuckling whenever US Weekly or one of those other esteemed journalistic outlets runs a "Stars Without Makeup" issue. Yeah, I'm sure the average US Weekly reader looks better than Rihanna when they roll out of bed, so they must have all the right to point and laugh.

Hell, I'll admit that I'm not above using celebrities as an occasional punchline, but there's a fine line to draw between lighthearted mockery and full-out obsession. Value these people as entertainers and (hopefully) conveyors of otherwordly talent. Admire their accomplishments and applaud if they do things the right way, but leave it at that. I guarantee there are many important things in your own life that could use the additional attention.