Forget Paris

June 8, 2007

Article Text

Hilton appeared to be in handcuffs when she was placed into a black-and-white patrol car, which sped away from her Hollywood Hills home with lights flashing. Paparazzi sprinted in pursuit and news helicopters pursued overhead, broadcasting live TV coverage.

— Associated Press

It's a goddamn tabloid orgasm. And it makes me want to puke. (Oh, in case you forgot: Anna Nicole Smith is STILL DEAD.)

And I'm complicit. I work at a newspaper 2,000 miles from La-La Land, and we've been posting the story on our web site all day. Why? Because people will read it. We have statistics to prove it.

This is my first blog item about Paris Hilton. I don't blog about Hilton because that's what my coworker Mike does and I don't want to rip off his clever rants. That, and Hilton is such an easy, easy target. I mean, does anybody actually think she holds any kind of value for our society whatsoever? Have you heard of many Paris Hilton defenders? Doubtful.

But I can't be silent anymore. This tabloidgasm is absurd.

I mean, here's a woman girl who is very obviously over-privileged. She's famous for ... what? The cliché (and I hate this cliché) is that she's famous for being famous. But something made her initially famous to start the Cycle of Recursive Fame. Does anybody even know what that was?

Anyway, let's run through the events leading to the current Paris debacle: drives drunk, gets probation, violates probation, sent to jail for 45 days, released after three days, and ordered back to court.

And. This just in.

Screaming and crying, Paris Hilton was escorted out of a courtroom and back to jail Friday after a judge ruled that she must serve out her entire 45-day sentence behind bars rather than in her Hollywood Hills home. "It's not right!" shouted the weeping Hilton, who violated her parole in a reckless driving case. "Mom!" she called out to her mother in the audience.

— Associated Press

Not exactly grace under pressure.

Certainly, this represents the best-case-scenario for the media. Famous heiress breaks down and weeps in court. Screams for mommy. Is a drama queen. Page one! Cha-ching!

There's a tendency to want to laugh at this development and call her a whiny spoiled brat. But let's be honest for a minute: Jail is no picnic. I don't care who you are. If you're confined by yourself to a small cell for 23 hours a day, that's going to take a serious mental toll. It probably would make you sick. Doesn't mean you should be released (that's why they call it jail). But nor do I think it's our place to gloat at someone being locked up, even if it is the painfully annoying Hilton. Yes, she brought it on herself while driving drunk and endangering others, and she deserves what she gets, but that's not the point. I'm not here to celebrate, as tempting as it is.

I'm here to pose the question: How did we as a media culture get obsessed with this shallow, inconsequential person? She wouldn't be famous if (1) the media didn't cover her ad nauseum and (2) the stories didn't sell papers. The media is complicit, and so is the brain-dead public. Regarding the public, my guess is they are attracted the notion of watching a train wreck. (Certainly not for reasons of talent, as there obviously aren't any.) Did I say the same thing about Anna Nicole Smith? I honestly don't remember (and don't feel like looking), but this line of reasoning seems familiar.

As long as we celebrate this BS, it will continue to drag down our society's collective IQ and repeat itself. Garbage in, garbage out.

Remember right after 9/11 when everything in our society turned temporarily solemn, and the media became very serious and covered a lot more news and a lot less of this kind of stuff? And we all wished we could go back to caring about pointless nonsense?

Well, we're back, baby (and have been for a very long time). With a vengeance.

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7 comments on this post

    I assume she became famous initially from the sex tape. Personally I am amazed people are so fascinated with vacuous people like celebrities? I rather like the episode of South Park that poked fun at her. As the little girl asked her friends what is Paris famous for they said: "She's rich! She's stuck up! She's a whore!" And that pretty much sums it up. "You're a dead man Apgar!" Sorry I just got done reading the new reviews :-)

    Jammer, I agree with everything you said in your rant. But I honestly think her 15 minutes of fame are OVER. And the moment it happened is when they snapped the photo of her crying in the police car. Much of her celebrity was based on having a certain amount of arrogance and dare I say "street cred." That photo pretty much dashed away her perceived image in society. I can't imagine anyone thinking about her in quite the same way. I also applaud the legal system for at least not treating a celebrity like they're above the law. With that said, I do feel sorry for her on some level. She's going through something very horrible and it's something she could have avoided if she had just be a little more responsible.

    Last night Jay Leno's monologue covered the Paris media circus, where, for over 2 hours Friday morning the media, including the L.A. NBC affiliate, followed her "motorcade" from her house to the courthouse. After making jokes about the extended coverage and how even the Iraq war paled in comparison media-wise, Leno played the local NBC tape of "breaking news" that occurred during the Paris coverage. He stressed that this was the real footage and hadn't been doctored in any way. The announcer mentioned that there was "breaking news" that they were switching to "while we're waiting for Paris to come out" (of the courthouse). The story involved the replacement of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, by Chief of Naval Operations, Mike Mullen. Jay noted that after all of nine seconds of coverage for this story, NBC returned to the "big story," Paris Hilton. You think our priorities are a bit skewed?

    It's interesting to see people who don't talk about Paris Hilton talk about her. I hear Anderson Cooper refused to do a story about her but in this case it was just so big that even he couldn't ignore it as much as he want to. Well I'm not going to be celebrity Paris Hilton being in jail. She did it to herself but it is obvious she is going through a tough time and I'm not going to celebrate that.

    ^ This is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation. Even the people who deplore the coverage regarding celebs like Hilton are forced to cover it because news and revenue are so intertwined in the media today. The AP did something similar where they decided they weren't going to write about Paris Hilton (or maybe it was Britney Spears) unless the story was actually newsworthy. I think they were forced to abandon the policy after a week or so because they were missing the boat on so many fluff stories that the public would seek out elsewhere. Then there are people like me, who hate it and then turn around and use it to fill a blog entry or column. (If I were truly against it, I would abstain from discussing it altogether.) I think reality is somewhere in between total silence and "breaking news" 2-hour coverage.

    ^I was about about to do the same thing with my blog, but I don't want to be considered Hypocritical if I did. I am embarrassed to be in this country the last few days. This whole thing is nothing but a circus, and oh by the way, I thought there was still a War. Instead of what really should pass as news, we as a society have been so fixated on this whole Paris Hilton thing that it's embarrassing. It's hard not to care when it's the only thing being talked about.

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