Monday, November 17, 2014

More on Celebrity Hype

See how desperate the news media is to get our attention by attaching a story to a famous name.  Here is a headline about the brother of a former NFL player entering into a plea agreement.  I wonder how many times this type of plea agreement activity happens every day across the country.  But when there is some way to attach the name of a wrongdoer, ever so remotely, to an athlete, a movie star or a politician, it becomes what passes for news these days.

Similarly we very often hear news about the Royal Family.  America doesn’t even have a royal family so we have to borrow one from Great Britain.  It is a way of fulfilling the needs of little girls who dream of becoming princesses and satisfying others with their romantic concepts of royalty.

So when little Prince George goes on his first overseas trip, it’s covered on the evening news in the US and pictured in our newspapers just like regular news.  The only way some Americans knew that the UK sent soldiers to the Middle East is because Prince Harry’s deployment was featured in a news story.  The late Princess Di was so popular in the US that tabloid newspapers were paying big bucks to paparazzi for candid photos, a dynamic that likely contributed to her untimely death.

I needn’t dwell on how the activities and misadventures of our own celebrities are covered, especially after the fuss about George Clooney’s wedding, a story that was resurrected when the designer of the gown, Oscar de la Renta, passed away a few weeks later.

Many years ago these kinds of stories were covered by a small number of reporters known as gossip columnists.  They made a living by covering celebrity events along with the seamier side of Hollywood.  Today, with our far-reaching and instant mass communications, we have promoted so many people to celebrity status that a few columnists are unable to cover the whole gamut.  We worship, in a way, professional and top-tier amateur athletes, movie and television stars – even some manufactured stars on reality shows, corporate CEOs (such as Ted Turner, Donald Trump, Jack Welch, or Lee Iacocca), singers, dancers and models. 

It’s a little appalling to think that the gossip columnist of today are the AP and the “hard news” shows, but if you look at what they bring us on a regular basis, there is no getting around it.  Appalling, yes, but they do it for a good reason.  They are pandering to the low levels of perspective of the American people.  An aspect of perspective, remember, is the ability to separate the trivial from the substantial.  As long as corporations and politicians can feed our fascination with, in many cases addiction to, the trivial, even stretching it to formerly unknown relatives of celebrities, they can continue to sell us things we don’t need, including the news, by insisting on its importance.  

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