[Editor’s Note: Aaron R. Davis is busy working on his epic Disney/Marvel crossover fan fiction, so today we bring you a special guest column by Amanda Lowery.]
It all started in a Wal-Mart, as every wholesome American reflection should. Standing in line for the self check-out aisle, swine flu preventative meds in one hand and glow in the dark toothpaste in the other, I performed my cleverly positioned head tilt to dodge eye contact with others and began surveying the compulsive purchase items. Bics, batteries, 5 Hour Energy shots, Nerds Rope – and then it happened, as it inevitably does when you’re sandwiched between cranky consumers trying to keep your soul from drowning in the fluorescent sea of roll back prices, crying children and incessant bleeps from scanners; the tabloid invasion.
I could literally feel the gravitational pull of Us Weekly. Splayed across its cover was a shocking revelation and investigative journalism triumph: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart Engaged! Now, aside from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series’ ability to tickle my inner Goth – I regard the books as poorly written and could care less about what goes on between that gorgeous Brit and that monotone twit. So needless to say, I’ve read all four novels and have watched that terrible movie several times.
The idea of Bella and Edward inspiring love in the real world, if Hollywood is still considered part of the real world, was heartwarming. It was like Madonna’s ray of light in this dark, pessimistic and politically-ridden reality. My hand reached out in rebellion of my common sense, and I narrowly avoided the social embarrassment of picking up the magazine by the sudden movement of the line.
It didn’t occur to me that this might be a blatant lie until after I’d posted the information as my Facebook status in all caps followed by four exclamation points.
On a hunch I turned to Google, and its infinite ways of knowing. It was there upon the World Wide Web that the plethora of celebrity gossip media quickly overshadowed the joyous news from the Wal-Mart shelf of lies.
Apparently, while I’ve been living in a cave in Afghanistan reading Twilight with the book light that came as a bonus with my Snuggie, slander became kosher. It seems like the entire art form of storytelling has been infiltrated by the “Reality TV” phenomenon, morphing into some hybrid form of journalism. Real people have replaced made up characters, but most of the soap opera scenarios remain the same.
My favorite is The Superficial, which posts a disclaimer that “The Superficial is a celebrity gossip site which publishes rumors and conjecture in addition to accurately reported facts.” So good luck figuring out what the truth actually is, the site is not equipped with an alert that lets you know when you’re getting warmer.
I can’t decide if I should label these writers as artists or phonies. On the one hand, they conjure up an entertaining story that evokes a pre-planned emotion and sells. On the other hand, they invade the privacy of individuals, purposely misinterpret situations and speculate with no viable sources. I don’t think I would have taken issue with the fallacy had it been above the fold of the National Enquirer next to a photo of the woman who ate her husband because he was an alien. It appeared to be a legitimate news source, the magazine cover eerily mimicking People.
My intuition screams yellow journalism. Yet, there has been suspiciously little hullabaloo from the victims of this horrific social trend. I’m guessing from the lack of lawsuits that celebrities build forts with stacks of cash and hide from the humiliation. How else can they escape the likes of TMZ and E!?
But then I find myself asking what makes a celebrity so important to begin with? Surely media has a hand in creating the image they love to destroy. But why are we, the people, addicted to this constant unraveling and rebuilding of social figures? When you’re jonesing for your celebrity gossip fix, the junkie jitters making it hard to hide from your boss that you’re really waiting for his coffee to kick in so you can surf the web for unreal drama, then reality becomes blurry. Suddenly people you’ve never met have become integral parts your day, officially making us a Stalker Nation.
And when did celebrity become synonymous with royalty? Red carpets, extravagant jewels, impressive gowns and ceremonies commemorating their own importance. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies and I think the people who collaborate to create them deserve recognition, but why are we following them on Twitter?
And what about the celebrities that aren’t even movie stars or music artists? Paris Hilton is a whore heiress who became famous because of a sex video, and some people can’t wait to see what she writes next, or where she goes, or what she wears. Donald Trump is a capitalist buffoon with the most absurd head I have ever seen, and Jon and Kate Gosselin shouldn’t be entrusted with the care of a Beta fish, let alone eight children. Yet, they all reap exuberant amounts of attention from the people who want to know the intimate details of their lives.
What the hell is wrong with the general public? Can we really be a bunch of bottom feeding Jay Leno viewers who supplement lacking in our own lives with the fake drama of people we’ve never even met?
By the way – why do you care if Heidi Klum is legally changing her last name to that of her husband? That seems like a decision between her and the Seal, yet now it’s public knowledge, and I bet that it brought a little bit of light into someone’s sad day. Or perhaps it served as a conversation starter in one of those awkward Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner type situations. Regardless, that information mattered to someone outside of the immediate situation, and it just doesn’t seem right. It reaffirms the illusion that because we know these details about their lives we have a connection with them.
The overload of useless snippets of information from other people’s lives that may or may not be true make Wal-Mart seem like the Mecca of genuine American community. So I say we embrace that sense of community and instead of focusing on the magazines on the rack, we turn to the other people in line for our entertainment. At least you know for a fact that the woman in front of you is pregnant with her husband’s brother’s baby – her sparkly t-shirt says so.
Amanda Lowery works as an editor in Maryland. She is a slave to punctuation, but a comrad to words.