(Keep in mind, this was written about a year ago when all the cultural references were relevant.)
Apparent at grocery checkout lines, on the television, in magazines, newspapers and books; and splattered shamelessly throughout the expanding world of the Internet, our obsession with celebrities is growing.
We just can’t get enough of those familiar faces and the stories, whether true, false, or outrageous, that they inspire. We appreciate the one-way street of secrets, dirty laundry, and scandal where we have nothing to lose and only smut to gain.
And yet, despite the hundreds of Oscar winning actors, Championship-ring-wearing athletes, and Grammy winning musical acts that were once ogled and admired for their talent, we have recently expanded the qualifications of celebrity.
Websites that boast exclusive celebrity coverage, such as TMZ currently feature stories about the couple, Kate and Jon Gosselin, who are literally famous for having septuplets, totally their brood at 8.
Just to brush up, a quick Google search for the word “celebrity” reveals words such as “acclaimed, “revered,” and “talented.” Why then is this couple, whose only collective “talent” is the inability to properly employee condoms, talked about so frequently in the media?
With this particular example, we could easily put the blame on reality television, which has notoriously transformed mediocrity with the use of some sort of 15 minutes of fame assembly line that churns out stars like Ford churned out cars; but the problem is much bigger than the countless nobodies that don the oxymoronic title of “Reality Television Star.”
Celebrity attention is now given freely to partiers, drunkards and adulterers; people who are too fat, too skinny, or too ugly for their trade; heiresses, people who know famous people, and anyone who claims to have slept with Tiger Woods.
Instead of acclaim, reverence, and talent, one needs to be a social travesty, a pockmark on humanity, to receive the coveted title of celebrity that once was only given to those with enough talent to merit it.
The word “celebrity” itself resembles the word “celebration.” Similarly, by printing, publishing and obsessing over these people, we are celebrating, and now actively rewarding bad behavior through financial incentives, attention, and jobs.
We should question our treatment of these actions on a moral level and withdraw any support that we give to this population of clearly sick people, whether given intentionally or not. Let us start living our own lives instead of relying on voyeurism to satiate some perverse need to see chaos in others’ in order to preserve the sanity in our own!
And yet, like Paris Hilton and every train wreck that came before her, we just can’t stop watching as the train derails and plummets tragically off a cliff, while we sit safely in the station a couple hundred yards away, protected by a pane of forethought safety glass, an aversion to train wrecks, and relative emotional stability.