Anyone whose remote control wandered past an ABC, CBS or NBC morning "news" show on May 5 probably found the "news" hounds barking enthusiastically over this supposed "news" scoop: Paris Hilton was sentenced to Los Angeles County jail for 45 days. She violated parole after repeated episodes of reckless driving. This was news of national concern.
The morning anchors interviewed legal experts and professional Hollywood celebrity-stalkers to lament this heiress being brought low, complete with bad jokes about the jail being a "one-star Hilton." But they all wondered out loud: Who is to blame for this human train wreck?
Paris, being the thoughtless egotist that she is, blamed her publicist for telling her she could drive to work. That's baloney. You don't assign the "help" to read your legal documents for you.
Some blame the mother for botching the upbringing. No one's denying that Mama Hilton is a disgraceful figure in her own right, but that's still baloney. Paris is 26 years old and perfectly capable of messing up her own life.
Obviously, Paris ought to take responsibility for her own actions and stop living up to every cartoonish notion of clueless celebrity life. But there's a problem. Being a cartoonish notion of cluelessness is exactly what made her a household name, courtesy of the voyeuristic press. The media's celebrity exploitation machine needs to be denounced, both for its promotion of the raunchy underbelly of American pop culture and its hypocrisy for feigning concern over the damage Paris Hilton is doing to it.
Who is Paris Hilton? What is her claim to fame? She is utterly unaccomplished. She has done nothing but be rich, pretty, blonde, wild and very, very stupid. She first surfaced in an unauthorized sex tape. ABC says it became "one of the best-selling porn videos of all time." From there, it was the surreal world of "reality" TV and Fox's "The Simple Life," where Paris and her friend Nicole Richie made themselves famous as amoral nitwits.
Then everyone got involved: the ever-hungry Hollywood celebrity media, the cable and broadcast news channels, and finally the advertisers (remember the infamous slutty Carl's Jr./Hardee's hamburger commercials?). The irony is that most of the "news" coverage came attached with a superiority complex, judging and mocking Paris as a negative role model for young girls. That she certainly is. But how cynical can our national media get?
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