Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Cult of Celebrity

It started with a quick peek at AP News Entertainment headlines. Then came reading an article or two. A little Celebritology in the morning before starting the day. It was all just harmless fun. I could find reasons to rejoice the paparazzi’s lack of interest in my hair roots of fashion (non)sense. I could be pleased with the relative banality of my life.

Then Anna Nicole died and the paternity of her daughter became important. That’s when I knew it was more than just a casual interest. I was hooked. The day the paternity test results were due, I kept the AP News Entertainment headlines page and the Washington Post Entertainment page up on my second monitor, which I checked when I had breaks in my workflow. (Okay, I’ll admit it: I refreshed the pages every few minutes as the day drew to a close.) Late that afternoon, a refresh brought me the news, which I promptly announced to a room full of uninterested women. (Fine: one person was properly appalled, but only for a moment. After all, municipal government can be a Peyton Place all its own.)

After that fateful day, celebrity gossip became a habit. I started hitting Celebritology even before I opened the Metro page on the Post. One day I even check celebrity news before I scrolled through Cute Overload. I watched in horrified fascination as Paris was sentenced to jail and e-mail petitions to the governor were ignored. (Let that be a lesson to anyone who wants to send me one: if the Governator isn’t swayed, I can’t possibly have faith in e-mail petitions — no matter how ineffective they might be in reality.)

Britney Spears shaved her head? Was she in rehab yet? Again? Paris was in jail? Wait, she was out of jail. Nope, back in. What extensions were Britney sporting? Was she pregnant again, or was it K-Fed’s other woman?

I wasn’t covetous of the attention to these self-destructive children. Rather, I was appalled. These women could not make a good decision if their lives depended on it. I wondered if celebrity ruined what little good judgment they had, or if they truly had none of which to speak. I wanted to ask where their parents were, but realized these women should have had the sense God gave Little Bo Peep by the time they hit their mid-20s. Maybe they did and we just caught them on a bad day. Maybe they hit the slippery slope and couldn’t catch hold of a branch on the way down.

Maybe I was giving some people more credit than they deserved.

I couldn’t imagine living their lives, dogged by the media because of my own conjured artificial "events" that drew swarms of paparazzi and other famous faces to my “simple” outings. I couldn’t imagine lacking enough self-respect to keep my nose clean, especially when I knew the cameras would be watching (because I waited to act until they were). I couldn’t imagine inciting my own celebrity by my actions, then being shocked — yes, shocked because I was mocked for my mistakes and poor judgment.

Then the media began announcing Nicole Richie’s pregnancy and wondering publicly whether her unborn child has suffered from her horrific lifestyle of malnutrition, drugs, alcohol and unsafe physical practices. With those headlines, I felt abject disgust at the situation, and I was cured. As long as it cost no one else anything of consequence, it was a game. Once innocent bystanders started getting hurt, it stopped being fun to watch.

Fame is fleeting and fickle, and perhaps I am a perfect example of that.

I’ll still look over Celebritology in the morning and enjoy Liz’s flippancy and humor, but first I'll troll for hedgehogs on Cute Overload. I will continue to see what movies are opening, what the reviewers think of Xanadu the Musical (as if anything could compare to the original, no matter how many confidential winks the writers give us!) and hopefully continue to discover new music from the likes of Los Lobos, Nickelback, Eddie from Ohio and, of course, Fergie and her “lady lumps.” I still will check out AP News Entertainment headlines, but only after I hit the main news page. I will live a Paris-and-Nicole-free life. I will not waste any more time witnessing the disasters of fame.

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