Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Celebrity Skin

One of the things that's plagued me beyond almost all other topics has been the obsession that we as Americans have with celebrity and pop culture. One of the reasons I took a break from (and at this point, probably have quit completely) Twitter is because I was incredibly disappointed to see the amount of time that people spend talking about celebrities and their lives. Hip hop heads that I respect tremendously seemed to be just as obsessed with talking about Nas and Kelis' divorce as most females seem to be about the personal lives of the stars of Desperate Housewives and Sex in the City. I guess it's true that familiarity breeds contempt.

It started with Michael Jackson's death. One of the last times I actually checked Twitter was after the BET Awards. Most of the talk on the BET Awards seemed to be a lot of gossip and shit talking about celebrities. There didn't seem to be much else. I decided to not pursue the course of action of continuing to look through tweets to get to something interesting or substantial. This morning I read in the news that Janet ended up speaking for the Jackson family regarding Michael's death and that her speech was short & emotional. Now maybe it was my timing, but I sure didn't see anyone commenting on that, which might have been worthwhile. It was this disappointment in people that I followed that ultimately led me to stop using Twitter period.

This leads me into my next observations from over the last few days. I honestly do hope Michael Jackson rests in peace. I respected him as an artist and a performer. But when I heard that several internet news sites crashed, solely because of the amount of people checking to see if MJ died, I felt both nauseated and sad at the same time. People, he was a pop icon & a legend but don't mistake celebrity for familiarity. Just because you knew OF him does not mean you were homies. I understand being sad that a legend has now passed into the afterlife. I am too. But what is with this societal obsession that we have over celebrity?

I loved Jon Stewart's take on Obitutainment, because it really seems like so many people were obsessed with MJ's after-news death. The same people who talked shit about MJ and called him a freak and disowned him as a black man were suddenly crying over his death and following every second of the custody battle of his children.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

The next big celebrity news to hit Americans was the whole big deal on Jon and Kate, and their show, and their shenanigans, etc, etc. Everywhere you went it was about Jon and Kate, Jon being a douchebag, and Kate being a bitch, or not a bitch, or too good for Jon, blah blah blah. Who the hell ARE these people? These are just two random people who ended up becoming celebrities in this country because they were the stars of a reality show. So what? Why do we care about these people? Why is anything that happens to them considered actual news?

Lastly, and most recently, I'm truly disgusted by the amount of time Kanye's tomfoolery has gotten on every single god damned news site in existence. Why is it news that Kanye is being an asshole? Didn't we already know that? Isn't it kind of news that he actually spoke up on someone else's behalf rather than his own for once? Not like I care one way or another, but honestly, so what if he acted up at the MTV Video Awards? Hasn't everyone pretty much written off MTV as...what MTV as an acronym actually stands for? Again, WHY IS THIS CONSIDERED ACTUAL NEWS?

The answer is that people are so consumed with observing life instead of actually living it, that life is just a spectacle, and all most people live for is precisely that - the spectacle. People who spend so much time on the gossip rags, paying attention to celebrity and pseudo-celebrity culture, have nothing else to fill their lives with. Self-realization and self-actualization are not goals for people who spend time talking about...other people's lives. The saddest part of all this is a quote from George Bernard Shaw that I am finding seems to apply to most people, certainly most Americans these days:

"The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity."

People out there, take a moment and think. Ask yourself, when was the last time you gave a fuck about someone else that wasn't a celebrity? When was the last time you actually cared about people you don't even know that aren't rich and famous? How many of you were aware of the news that 4 American soldiers were killed this last weekend in Afghanistan? (In related news, it was of interest to see that this story was a tiny little side link on the CNN website, while the "news" of Kanye and Taylor Swift, and celebrity reaction to the incident was all over the front page.)

Another question to ask yourself is, how many of you were aware that (according to NPR's story on September 14th) children in California (Not just in some far away place you've never heard of nor could you point out on a map) are going without food overnight and over the weekend because the recession is causing families to not be able to pay for food? Did any of you know that public libraries in Philadelphia are closing? That's a terrible thing for me personally to hear, because when I was in elementary school, the public library was a safe haven for me. It was a quiet place for me to think and read and to get away from all the turmoil and upheaval and angst at home.

To play Devil's Advocate for a moment, I understand that some people pay attention to celebrity culture as escapism. Manz sister is a nurse in the Oncology department of the Cleveland Clinic. When all you are surrounded by on a daily basis is people dying of a terminal illness, you definitely need something silly and light to pay attention to, to divert your attention elsewhere. I totally understand the need for that. And honestly, a commenter on NPR after the news of Michael Jackson's death broke did sum it up quite well:

"It is beyond ridiculous to argue that pop culture does NOT have a profound and direct impact on Americans. Pop culture affects socio-polical points of view, the perception of morality and justice, and the place of art as a mirror of culture, just to name a few of the important roles that it plays in American lives. When it's thought about in that light it's hard to see how Michael Jackson's death could garner any less than the coverage it has gotten."
David Pye, Baton Rogue, LA

Yes, pop culture is important and an important part of American culture. But for those of you intelligent individuals out there, I ask you to spend a little time making yourself aware of what else is going on in the world outside of the next gossip about some reality star, or even about an actual celebrity. Expand your horizons. Consider those less fortunate than yourselves. JUST USE YOUR BRAIN. Please.

1 comment:

  1. It's getting to be scary now news moves so fast on Twitter it's now 2 hours faster than the rest of the internet. The gift & the curse, I guess.