Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ramblings on a Saturday night

This is my rant on an encounter I had at a grocery store as I was in the checkout aisle. There's not much of a point than to say why the fuck do we care? Why do we pour so much time and energy into the reading into the lives of the rich and famous? If you could, also leave a comment at Jonathan's Corner; please and thank you!


A few nights ago, I make a quick run across the street to Vons off on Canyon Plaza. As I'm putting my items on the conveyor belt, I scan the pop trash mags next to the M&M's and Trident gum packs.

One mag headline had the star of The Bachelorete, Vienna, talking about how much of a jerk the winner and "lover" (allegedly) Jake was towards her once the cameras stopped rolling. I guess someone forget to tell her that actually falling in love with the "winner" is a no-no. I mean, the big-wigs at ABC have to keep the reality series going with the likable jilted lovers looking for happiness, and the stuck-up fame whores looking to keep their faces on E! News every night.

Another mag had one of the stars of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse on the cover, and when I read the captions Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson, I almost immediately looked to the next mag on the stand. I'm sure Lautner is a pretty cool dude, and i've seen some interviews of him on late-night TV where he comes off as a charming guy, but I can't wait until this whole Twilight-fad joins Pokemon, Hannah Montana, boy bands, and Heidi and Spencer in the trash bin of pop culture history. I've had enough about hearing endless debates between Team Edward and Team Jacob and whether or not Pattinson and his co-star, Kristen Stewart are dating.

The last magazine I skimmed over is something I still can't fully comprehend: a magazine devoted to Canadian teen sensation Justin Bieber. From which celebrities find him adorable, to his secret tattoo, to his clothing style, it covered just about every aspect you could think of on the kid. And then there was this section I found honestly pathetic: how your boyfriend can look like 72. Am I the only person who finds that disturbing? Why would you want your boyfriend to look like male jailbait?

More to the point: why do we, as a society, place so much emphasis on popularity, on who's "in" or what's "out"? Allow to steal a quote from the Denver-based folk/alternative band DeVotcKa: "If you win the rat race, if you come in first place / Then a rat is all you will be." If we're this shallow and vapid, that we have to look a certain way to impress groups of people, or believe that if we just do this we'll feel accepted amongst the sea of same, then we're only lying and deceiving ourselves, and effectively, slowly destroying our individuality for the sake of vanity.

1 comment:

et said...

If it's any consolation, Jonathan, most Canadians don't see what justifies Justin Bieber's fame, either. But bear in mind that among this country's other gifts to the world was Celine Dion. Permit me to apologize (another useful Canadian skill).

This kind of lowest-common-denominator enshrining of celebrity is nothing new. When I was a kid, it was still mostly confined to the likes of "Tiger Beat." Then, come the 70s, publishers realized that a cultivated appetite for these kinds of stories could persist beyond the teen years. "People" launched in 1974 and arguably, with some cross-pollination from second-tier magazines specializing in soap operas, established the concept. Its spread in print publishing, and its translation to the broadcast and now Internet media, was inevitable.

We watched "1776" tonight at our house, and at one point one John Dickinson, a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress and a staunch opponent to the cause of Independence, observes to Franklin that "most people would prefer to cling to the possibility of becoming rich rather than face the reality of being poor." I think that, similarly, many people prefer to imagine themselves in the fame-and-fortune shoes of celebrities and live vicariously through them than to take the reins of their own lives and make them meaningful and fulfilling. And those people are a ripe market for organizations willing to exploit their vulnerability for profit.

I like to think this is a cultural phase we're passing through - that in time the increasingly stupid "reality" shows will fade away and be replaced by something more creative and inspiring. But I fear I'm wrong. We've been so dumbed-down, and so encouraged to be overstimulated at every moment by things pushed at us from every possible source. Do we even know how to just check out and think and do without being Tweeted every five minutes? I'm one of the last people to rail against the Internet...but I worry about a generation that wears its life on its sleeve in 140 character bursts and doesn't comprehend where privacy begins or ends.

I think I'm going to enjoy being completely unwired for 5 days later this week.

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