Thursday, February 09, 2006

The age of contrivance

Ah, celebrities. Vanity Fair recently released photos from the upcoming cover and spread of their "Hollywood Issue." I was so excited because what’s better than celebrities? Naked Celebrities!

I find it personally disgusting how much I care about these people. How much I know about their lives and love interests. How much money I spend on trashy magazines that exist because of stupid people like me who support the paparazzi and gossipers that jumble together juicy stories for public consumption.

I don’t buy that they deserve it because “they wanted to be famous” or they deserve it because “they get paid millions of dollars.” That’s not fair. I certainly don’t feel sorry for famous people, but I do find it interesting how very obsessed our culture is with our own Hollywood Royalty.

One explanation for this comes from an article by David McNair, where he points to the insights of historian and social critic Daniel Boorstin who said that our nation was threatened by a “menace of unreality.”

“We need not be theologians,” Boorstin wrote “…to see that we have shifted responsibility for making the world interesting from God to the newspaperman….It is we who keep them in business and demand that they fill our consciousness with novelties, that they play God for us.” The article points out that: “Boorstin argued that America was living in an ‘age of contrivance’ in which manufactured illusions were becoming a powerful force in society. He believed that public life consisted more and more of ‘pseudo-events’—staged and scripted happenings designed to “create” news and influence our perceptions of reality.”

He quickly notes American’s obsession with “reality TV” and how we were able to quickly accept an action hero turned Governor (of a state that has a larger GDP then most countries, mind you). There are entire fields dedicated to “cowing the masses” including polling, PR, advertising and in some cases, politics. What is real? Is there anything genuine caught on Cnn, Fox or local TV? We can spin wars and presidential campaigns so what is our standard of reality and genuine truth? Is there anything genuine…was there ever anything genuine? Certainly reality is just a first step in one’s perception so what’s so wrong with other people shaping it before you get a chance to?

I encourage you to read the full article as it is very interesting, including when America truly began its celeb worship and many scary results. But the point I find the most compelling, is why, “On a more subtle level, it’s not unusual for intelligent people to hold strong opinions about public figures or to indulge in nasty or careless gossip about them?” He notes, “Our celebrity culture allows us to shamelessly praise, berate, gossip about, and lust after other human beings without consequences.”

That passage really hit home for me. I have fucking theories about why Brad and Jen broke up, why Mariah had a breakdown, Kanye’s inadequacy complex, Tom Cruises' sexuality and blackmail plot by scientologist and many, many others that are even more out there. I consider myself a fairly rational and reasonable person, and yet there I go paying for Star magazine every effing Friday. It’s absurd, but it’s not unusual.

And, it won’t go away. Think about the financial implications for magazines, TV, movies, fashion, writing and any charity event if the media toned it down on celeb obsessing? Just as politicians can no longer expect to have their extramarital activities or debilitating handicaps go ignored by today’s modern media, American celebrities give up a lot more than just some of their privacy. They become part of the escapist obsessions in millions of people's daily lives. Today’s consumer has been born and bread on the daily smuckgasbord and I am not sure there is anyway to change it back.

“This new relation is based on an illusion of intimacy...which is, in turn, the creation of an ever tightening, ever more finely spun media mesh … that cancels the traditional etiquette that formally governed not merely relationships between the powerful and the powerless, the known and the unknown, but, at the simplest level, the politesse that formally pertained between strangers.”


Blogger Washington Cube said...

Well done, Miss V. Very well done. I haven't received my Vanity Fair in the mail yet, and when I read that they were featuring nudity on the cover, I had to wonder if I would even get the copy, as the Postal Service is notorious for nipping off with those issues. I look forward to reading the article you cited.

To quote the old media poobah Marshall McLuhan: "The Medium is the Massage."

11:44 AM  
Blogger V said...

WC: Thanks--The cover is online, but I couldn't get it to load. It's really hot w/ Scarlett J and Keira Knightly. And, the article is from 03 and is only online (not in VF) so be sure to check it out via the link.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

V: I have definitely marked off the article for later reading. You've hit out of the park twice this week, one with your guest, now this, in my humble opinion.

P.S. Angelina is such a pretty girl. I hate to see how she's marred her flesh.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Floyd said...

V, I have no idea why women (and I am intentionally singling out women here) care so much about celebrities. It honestly creeps me out more often than I care to admit.

You're actually different than your usual celebrity worshiper, though, in that you can rattle off celebrity gossip as well as name our secretary of state. Most celebrity-obsessors can't do the latter. This has literally caused me to lose sleep.

In your case, I'd say it's a slightly unhealthy distraction from reality, but nothing to be too concerned about. If it wasn't celebrities, it'd be Batman, sports, or some other trivial yet necessary fantasy-based entertainment. The ones to be concerned about are those that only inhabit their fantasy world, that have no political opinions but can give you a piece of their mind about what a scuzball Brad Pitt is and sorry they feel for poor Jen. Those are the scary ones; they'll be the end of us all...

(For men's fantasy problem, substitute "sports" for "celebrity" and you have the same phenomenon.)

11:46 PM  
Blogger V said...

Floyd: It scares me, too. And you are really, really right about sports (men) v. celebs (women), both are equal in how very little one fan matters to the whole of their interests in either.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Kyle Foley said...

kiera knightly sells out

12:43 PM  
Blogger V said...

Oh Kyle, don't be so goddamn uptight and judge-y. We are born nude, and hell, you're into the Bible, it's our natural state and "the world" makes us feel shame and wear clothes, not God.
Plus, sista works her ass off for that body so leave her alone.
You're just resentful because her pic makes it tingle down there!

1:18 PM  
Blogger Floyd said...

Newsflash, Kyle - Knightley sold out long ago while appearing topless in The Hole and The Jacket.

And before you start getting a bible camp crush on the chaste Ms. McAdams, do a google search for her nude scenes from My Name is Tanino. Seems McAdams developed integrity just a bit AFTER she made it big...

2:31 PM  
Blogger Serena said...

Great post!

3:54 PM  

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