About a year ago, I watched a national morning news program that devoted over half of its broadcast time toward promoting a ridiculous looking band that was already exceptionally popular. To aide in your imagination, visualize three scruffy thirty-five year old men with perms dressed up as teenage girls. They kept “checking in” with them between segments and at one point a member of the band assisted with the weather report. I would have said he “helped” but it doesn’t really feel like the right term. He just spent most of the time mugging for the camera. I suppose it doesn’t really matter because nobody has ever benefited from one of those national weather reports anyway. I’m rarely in Phoenix and New York at the same time so it has never occurred to me that I need to know what the temperature might be in both places. After a few minutes of commercials they returned to the studio where they proceeded to have a gorgeous young woman show the hosts several new products. She would go around and explain what they were and who might appreciate them as gifts. There were even a few items that she insisted everyone must own. One was a remote control for an air-freshener and the other was a tiny bathtub solely for your feet. This was followed by a short interview with a major Hollywood actor, whose God is an alien, and a brief clip from their new film.
At this point I realized that I had previously heard several people in my life refer to this show as “the news” and was starting to get really upset. I had been fooled into watching an hour of commercials. I went to make myself a cup of coffee and once I had returned there was a celebrity chef making healthy desserts and then the band finally went on to do their performance. The show ended and, despite having never been given any actual information, I still learned a valuable lesson. People are spending billions upon billions of dollars to ensure that you like what they want you to like. A few of these celebrities are pretty detestable human beings. That’s all well and good for the short lived fame of reality television but some have amassed legitimate wealth and true star power partly because of their clownish behavior.
It’s gotten to a point where we almost cannot see them as real people anymore. It’s easy to forget that they continue to exist off screen, have families, fears and thoughts. You can’t expect every celebrity to be as immaculately classy as Tom Hanks but even people famous for being human garbage have feelings. Consider our relationship to these people for a moment. They are paid so we can collectively hate them. The television converts our attention, disgust and morbid curiosity into money and they get a portion of that. That’s a pretty incredible way to make a living but it should probably bother more of us that this can even exist as a career.
Then we go and validate these people and some of us even begin to look up to and idolize them. We’re a culture that has no trouble giving away time that could be spent on self improvement, deep reflection and socializing for a few extra hours of low brow entertainment. As it turns out, all that attention is profitable to advertisers and television networks so even more money is put into make sure your attention remains held. Oddly, we seem pretty eager to participate in the parade of ridiculousness that the media puts on every second of every day. If someone took a crap on a plate and then published a photo of it in People Magazine, you had better believe it would only be a matter of weeks before it was starring in the next romantic comedy with Jessica Biel.
I should be clear and say that I do think it’s alright to have favorite celebrities and television shows. But I’m not entirely convinced that we can be trusted to moderate ourselves. We are like a society of alcoholics but, instead of alcohol, it’s famous people. Ryan Gosling is a wonderful actor and every bit as handsome as the tabloids say but we’re getting status updates each time he gets new glasses. That feels a little bit excessive. We don’t need to be stressing over each little thing and creating an industry where people can make money stalking celebrities. If we’re going to be spending every spare second we have obsessing over Hollywood, we should at least be asking important questions. For example, why do they keep making Judy Greer the “ugly” friend in every movie? I would much rather be going out with her than Helen Hunt, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Garner or pretty much any other female lead. Every time the two lovers finally kiss I’m always left thinking “I wonder what Judy Greer’s character is doing right now.” It doesn’t make sense and, in my opinion, is an utter travesty. But, until we all band together and tell the studios that we won’t go and see another boring and soulless romantic comedy until she’s the star, nothing is going to change. Absolutely nothing.
Despite advancing technology to a place that has given us more leisure time and access to leisure activities than ever before; we’ve developed a pretty weak attention span combined with a terrible need to be obsessed and continuously shocked. When we don’t get enough of it, we create new celebrities (seemingly from nothing) and enter into this strange relationship with them. Love, hate, envy and disgust all sort of meld together while we give them money and encourage them to try and shoot for the stars. The worse they act the more we hate them but the second they become upstanding or normal, our attention usually dries up. We are absolutely obsessed with being obsessed, yet we rarely take a time out for an examination. It’s as inexplicable as it is bizarre. We’re a part of this culture that rewards freaks while also condemning them. It sexualizes children but doesn’t give the right to touch their butts. There are mothers and daughters lusting after the same child stars and families sitting down to watch a marathon of teenagers who didn’t know that they were nine months pregnant. Sure, it’s entertaining and makes us feel better about ourselves but why? Time is the most precious and fleeting commodity we have and I’m not sure any of this has really earned ours.
I love Judy Greer. Not only is she more attractive than most “attractive” actresses, but she actually comes across as intelligent and funny; unlike the majority of Hollywood starlets. And that quote from Lil Wayne (why is he Lil again? Last I checked he was a grown man) is great at showing us why most of our celebrities and heroes are simply deplorable people.
I support your love of Judy Greer.
Did you see that Yahoo came out with its top-10 list of searches for the year 2012 — and Kim Kardashian was the #3 search of the year?!?! Behind only “election” and “iPhone 5.” At least people have their priorities straight.
Oh wait. She’s #3. Of the entire year. That’s crazy-ass shit right there… :(
Was there anything hopeful on the top ten list?
There was for me: I had no idea who Kate Upton was. I do now. So I learned something.
But from a societal perspective? Nothing. Nada. Not even a little…
Speak for yourself, I don’t watch commercials, ‘news’ shows, romantic comedys or actually give a shit who plays the ugly friend!
Come join me, you’ll feel better for it.
I loved this post! You did a tidy job of explaining why we watch so little television and so few movies :) Peace be with you — Kelly
I’ve wanted to do a post like this for so long but couldn’t figure out how to do it. This topic makes me so angry and ashamedof the human race that every draft I attempted started out with, “You people are morons” and that wasn’t something I wanted to put out therethere. Great job! It’s also why i don’t watch tv anymore and why i may stop actually watching the local news, as they have now stooped to hiring out of work hockey players to host the weather here for entertainment as well. Eff all the meterologists who went to school for that and will never get a job in their field, eh? Let’s pay the out of work hockey player who makes more money in one season than those people will see in a lifetime! Soooooooo angry!
I had a little trouble putting this together since I’m not particularly well versed in modern day celebrities. This really was just a rant, I didn’t make the time to do a lot of “celebrity research.” I could, however, go on and on about how pervasive advertising has become.
Probably the main reason why TV doesn’t attract my attention much these days.
We have over 40 TV channels and around ten are shopping channels, some of the TV channels switching to Selling mode after midnight.
Needless to say I’ve watched none of them… :(
Yes, I’m a confirmed Radio head! :)
Audio makes it a lot easier to multitask and get things done. I’m thinking about starting a podcast. Thoughts?
Yeah, why not?
At least you’ll have tried something different! :)
Matt, you’ve said it and said it well. I do not know who Honey Boo Boo is or Lil Wayne and don’t want to know and since I stopped watching “news programs” several decades ago, I will probably never know. Being a human being though, I confess that when I am stuck waiting in a hair salon, I might pick up People magazine because there isn’t a Poetry magazine or Smithsonian, etc. There is a voyeur in all of us and one needs to be aware of it and vigilant about not taking in the garbage. And of course you know that the audience who reads your blog share your sensibilities. The others would rather watch Dancing with the Stars. Thanks for this wonderful piece of writing.
You’re right about the voyeurism, Judy. I know my core audience probably doesn’t spend a lot of time on celebrities and reality television, but I am genuinely curious as to the appeal- but I think you nailed it.
There is something there that keeps us watching and it may just be the act itself.
I am addicted to not watching TV. Who are these people you speak of? Actually, I don’t want to know…
Posky, have a drink of water…
I’ve incorporated more water into my life. Perhaps my body cannot continue to just turn coffee, smoke and the occasional egg into energy without ramifications.
I’m not very shocked that you don’t spend much time with the idiot-box. In fact, I usually imagine you as this beautiful nymph in a beautiful but desolate land. And deities, even minor ones, don’t watch television.
Ha! You do have a good imagination, Posky. I do hope minor dieties are allowed coffee.
Glad to hear you’re taking good care of yourself.
I wouldn’t say good care but, perhaps, better care.
The antidote is to make our own entertainment. I draw and sometimes go out dancing. Who cares if the singers of the songs I’m dancing to are less-than-totally virtuous. I’m less-than-totally virtuous myself.
There’s a difference betweem appreciating the work somebody does and idolizing that person. Celebrities are just workers whose areas of employment currently attract an inordinate amount of attention.
I just like that you mentioned coffee in this post. That is more important than celebrities. How was the coffee, by the way?
Pretty decent. I don’t normally go for the hazel nut but this was really working for me.
Nice. I often am the same way. I don’t go in for flavored coffees in general, but every once in a while it really hits the spot.
Posky, one day, when my dreams come true and I get famous for doing something, I promise it will be used for good and I won’t let fame change me. I will remember my true peeps, and I will still be semi-bi-polar but pretending I am not. I won’t go to the doctor to get meds because I will still be afraid of people hating me. And when I make it on the front cover of the tabloids because someone went through my trash and found a vibrator that doesn’t work anymore (because they aren’t water-proof, no matter what the young lady in red leather says), I will be appropriately embarrassed and I will fret and cry for a week or so. Don’t lose hope. Just sayin’… (Also, I will not write a book about “Vibratorgate.”)
Please write a book entitled “Vibratorgate.”
You cannot let anything stand in the way of that .
Well, all the other stuff would have to happen first. At this point, the whole story is written in a comment on your blog.
That’s still enough if we self publish.
Will you do the artwork for the cover? Please?
I think I can enter into that agreement.
Consider it done. Any ideas on font?
It really depends on where you want to go with it. Comic Sans is really good if you want to go the “Please don’t read this” look. A lot of people seem to have this big thing for Times though.
I say Jokerman.
Damn. I was thinking Playbill or Stencil. Perhaps we can meet in the middle at Chiller?
I flipped a coin on it.
We are good to go with Chiller.
Sweet! What now?
Now you use a vibrator until it breaks, place it careful in your trash and we play the waiting game.
Probably start writing the book now too.
LOL. I don’t have a stalker to go through my trash anymore. And I didn’t use it until I broke. It wasn’t water-proof, meaning you can’t use it in the bath (or apparently anywhere else there is moisture, which kind of makes it redundant). But this wall all theoretical. I do not use a vibrator. I don’t. Really….
That said, I will be working on the first draft today.
I don’t judge. At least not about matters of this nature.
Exactly why I don´t watch much tv………..enjoyed reading your piece very much xxx
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Haha, that’s a good one, if you like to read funny stuff, check out our blog we just started: http://choaticsoulz.wordpress.com/
I SOOOO love this post! I accidentally choked on my spit laughing when you mentioned the celebrity that worships an alien. It would be really funny if it wasn’t really sad. I will say that I don’t watch these stupid “news” shows, and I rarely go see any movies because celebs annoy me. I get really angry that “reality” shows even exists because these people have no class and no brains. Your best statement, “We’re a culture that has no trouble giving away time that could be spent on self improvement, deep reflection and socializing for a few extra hours of low brow entertainment.” Thanks for the post. It’s so true.
Never a problem.
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