Just see the gleeful reaction of Janice Min of Us Weekly when asked to assess troubled Miss Hilton for USA Today: "She had been out of the headlines for a few months, which in her world is an eternity. Headlines are her oxygen. ... She knows no shame, and that's why we keep watching. People like to watch people they don't like even more than watching people they do like." An Us Weekly poll of readers showed 80 percent of them wanted Paris in the slammer. Then they'll demand every inglorious detail, which Us Weekly will gladly provide.
Back in January, ABC's "20/20" acted shocked when man-on-the-street interviews revealed that nobody knew who cured polio, but many could name Nicole Richie's best friend. Earth to ABC: Did you ever think this could be your fault? This was the first time Jonas Salk had been mentioned on ABC ... in the 21st century.
In the meantime, Paris Hilton has been mentioned in thousands of stories. She is so famous and omnipresent in the celebrity media that she's become a rich-brat pop-culture reference point. Paris Hilton was the No. 1 "Google News" search of 2006.
Why can't the celebrity-obsessed media turn it off? If they can't just say no, then they should stop judging her, lest they be judged. There should be a national conversation about the media's role, and they should be convicted in the court of public opinion for enabling decadence. They are not really scolds and moralists. They are guttersnipes, feeding their audience a constant diet of "news" designed to build that rooting interest in the next perverse pratfall.
Look no further than a publicist named Ken Sunshine on NBC: "I think we want her to be more outrageous. We want her to get into more trouble. We want her to flaunt everything all the way. So, if anything, we want more Paris, not less Paris."
But the celebrity-exploiters raised her up to the pinnacle of fame. Without the spotlight, she might still be rich, pretty, blonde, wild and very, very stupid. But once this cartoon character has been created, there is an expectation that this is what she's been put on Earth to accomplish. She needs to implode so the rest of us can wallow in her misfortune.
The media won't stop, and neither will Paris Hilton. Just watch. She'll want to play this sordid game until she's the next Anna Nicole Smith.
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