Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why I stopped reading celebrity gossip

tabloid time
I grew up in complete and total ignorance of the celebrity world, with PBS and the occasional (gasp) Nickelodeon as my sole television comforts. Around 4th grade I was taunted with "You don't know who JOEY LAWRENCE IS??!!" (Whoah!) and other various references to my pop culture ignorance. In college, I started reading celebrity gossip on IMDb and soon other websites followed. Suddenly I knew more about actors' and actresses' romantic histories than many of my friends. I stuck with it for the next 5 or so years, cycling through phases of The Superficial, I Don't Like You In That Way, Pink Is the New Blog, and most recently, Ohnotheydidnt. I always saw it as a pleasant time diversion, harmless to humanity and like munching on candy. For free! God bless the internet. Whenever I'd be loading up the .RSS feed I'd think to myself, "gimme the goss!" a la Busta Rhymes' "Gimme Some More."

I got flak from a lot of my friends about it. Friend: "Why do you care about their lives?" Me: "I don't really, it just makes a fun read." Friend: "But it's stupid and pointless!" Me: "How is watching sports any different? It's just entertainment." Friend: "What a waste." Me: "I don't spend any money on it!" I like indulging my 'pleb' side, and I don't take kindly when people look down their noses at other people's hobbies. And then of course, there were my friends who were in on it too who shared in my dirty little secret. "Can you believe he left her for HER?", "Who's the baby daddy?" and so on, and so on.

So why the change of heart, you ask? First, paparazzi photos have become more indiscriminate and frankly, boring. Most shots are of celebs crossing the street while wearing sunglasses and holding a coffee from Starbucks. Where's the drama? "Will J Lo finish her frappucino before it melts? Tonight on Access Hollywood!"

Then, there's the unhealthy obsession with women's bodies. Time and time again, they are reduced to their parts, and the most minor flaws are critiqued. Again, obsession with weight and appearance seems decidedly drama-free. What's juicy about a celeb's 'juicy' thighs? Not much.

Finally, there is now a super invasive tone to some of these pictures that really distresses me. Are pictures of innocent children of celebs who didn't ask to be thrust in the spotlight necessary? I realize that there is also a huge industry around celebs selling pictures of their own spawn, but that's a separate issue altogether. Celebs are followed everywhere, 24/7. Going shopping, driving their cars, walking their dogs. Paps are notorious for their Machiavellian attitude towards getting pictures. They'll hang in trees, trespass, engage in high speed car chases, you name it. Tabloids and the celebrity-hungry consumers make it worth their $$$$- er, while.

Eventually, my little extracurricular activity seemed to take on undesirable and even sinister connotations. Three recent (perhaps arbitrary) items were what finally got me to take my gossip blogs off my feeds.

1. Britney Spears in her own backyard, looking up at the paps taking her photo, from what is presumably a helicopter. It is so poetic on a number of levels, and I had trouble believing she wasn't staring directly through my computer screen at me.

2. A story about Colin Farrell and his girlfriend buying a pregnancy test at a pharmacy, complete with an image of the receipt. Again, the invasion of privacy left me agape.

3. The story behind a tabloid article on Cynthia Nixon (aka Miranda from Sex and the City), in which the tabloid knowingly took false information as confirmed by her publicist and ran with the story anyway. They said she had gotten implants on a recent hospital visit, when in actuality she was there for a checkup to make sure her breast cancer was still in remission. I know, I know, whoda thunk a tabloid would in engage in shoddy and irresponsible journalism? But this is hardly one of those young women cavorting around Hollywood, coveting tabloid attention. Is there any fact checking behind these stories?

There were gems amid the crap that I will surely miss. I loved being among the first to hear about new and upcoming movies and albums, and seeing some of the first photos from movie sets. I also discovered many fun YouTube videos and helpful top 100 movie lists. There were really cool meta-celebrity articles, analyzing the importance of PR reps in today's world, or discussing celebrity news' impact on the economy (including of foreign countries) and awareness of important societal issues. Sometimes celebs would come forward with inspiring stories of prevailing over personal hardships. And of course, there's a certain personal satisfaction with having a salacious celebrity story to share. But alas, not enough wheat to justify all that darn chaff.

So long, Angelina Jolie. Farewell, Tom Cruise's adorable daughter. It's been a fun ride, but I'm getting off the train.

No comments: