Saturday, March 18, 2006

Hollywood's Prom Night

True, it's almost two weeks after the Oscars, but I'm a new blogger and lost my original post on this subject halfway through writing it on Oscar night. That's the night when we watch adults -- the vast majority of whom do not have a high-school education -- don their best prom-wear and exude the desperation of those sweating to be accepted by the ultimate in-clique. Why the newly crowned Prom Kings and Queens and Princess starlets ever thought we'd want to hear their political views as they present or accept a statuette of a naked gold man is beyond anyone's guess. But I digress. This year's Oscars were notably absent politicization -- a fact largely attributed to the already highly political nature of the films up for awards and the sense that Hollywood was backing down from the heavy-handedness of the political statements embodied in the nominated films.

It is the cult of celebrity that interests me, generally, and the fact that the vast majority of our stars are so terribly undereducated. It is a bubble world of high-school mentality and maturity. A few years ago, Gwyneth Paltrow proudly told the press about meeting President Clinton and sharing with him a high-school history class factoid about Thomas Jefferson and how Clinton fawned over her comment in awe. It was clear to the reader, and it was evident in the way the reporters wrote this news story, that the Jefferson-obsessed Clinton could not have been impressed with the information but instead was doing what charismatic leaders do best: make the powerful feel like, well, stars.

And even though it's painfully obvious to consumers looking at the covers of the near-weekly-multiplying tabloids of celebrities that the United States does not love or even like its celebrities, this is far from clear to the celebrities themselves. Week after week the tabloid covers cast celebrities in the most unflattering storylines possible. Some examples from the past two weeks alone: "Nick's Revenge Romance," "How Kevin Ruined Brit!" "Why Angelina Hates Her New Body!" Bad photos are another top cover seller: "All New! Extreme Celebrity Flaws! 50 Shocking Photos!" "Top 10 Weight Winners & Losers!" It's scandal that sells. You want a puff piece on your favorite celebrity? Go to Entertainment Weekly, People magazine, or the aptly titled Vanity Fair. You will not find such pieces, however, in the multiple tabloids that sell millions weekly.

Weirdly, celebrities apparently don't notice that these articles are far from fawning or that there is no small element of Schaudenfraude -- delight in another's misery -- among the tabloid-reading population. Well, this might be explained in part by the typical celebrity mindset, which is still stuck in the high-school mentality and maturity dynamic. Jennifer Aniston, for example, only this week complained that she is tired of being stuck as third wheel in the ongoing tabloid saga of that celebrity Bermuda Triangle that is Brad-Angelina-Jennifer. I don't want anybody to pity me! she wailed to the press. Don't feel sorry for me! The thing is, is there any tabloid consumer who felt sorry for Jennifer? Did it ever occur to anyone other than Ms. Aniston herself that tabloid readers might take pity on her? Aniston on the cover of tabloids last year looking bitter in the chosen photos and seeking "Revenge!" as the copy declared is what readers wanted, my Friend. They wanted the dirt on her misery, to put it bluntly. The Vanity Fair puff piece last summer in which "Jen Finally Talks!" was largely regarded in the industry as the equivalent of one of her movies: a stinker.

In future posts I would like to go deeper into the political significance of such a powerful elite having no real education. Is it by accident or design that such a powerful class -- in regard to wealth and reknown -- has no real ability to think critically or make pronouncements that the rest of the nation will regard as educated and important? And I'd like to go into the shallow stuff too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Are you saying that celebrities are universally uneducated? Or that uneducated people shouldn't be allowed to have political views? Or that they should only be allowed to hold them if they sit quietly in a corner and not talk out loud?

And by the way, it's "Schadenfreude," not "Schaudenfraude." But a highly educated pundit like yourself probably knows that already.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Sofiya said...

"the vast majority of whom do not have a high-school education"

I simply don't think this is true. Plenty of stars are well-educated.

"Is it by accident or design that such a powerful class -- in regard to wealth and reknown -- has no real ability to think critically or make pronouncements that the rest of the nation will regard as educated and important?"

I would not describe Robert Redford's environmental campaigning, Susan Sarandon's political activism, and Angelina Jolie's humanitarian work as uneducated and unimportant. And these are just three examples of many.

I'm sorry, but I'm having trouble understanding what your point is, and upon what factual evidence you're basing your conclusions.

11:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly how does this incoherent diatribe have anything to do with feminism?

3:18 PM  
Blogger frog said...

Anonymous, chill.

6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Layla, you raise some interesting questions.
These people are entertainers and in no way more educated politically or on today's issues than the average citizen They are not elected on the grounds of their politics, yet they use their celebrity status to make political comments.Because of their fame, these are given greater weight than those of Jill Everywoman.Schwarzenegger as Governor and Reagan as president should give us pause on this slippery slope.

10:03 AM  

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