I spent yesterday reading papers about celebrities and fame. As I read, I noticed that many of my students seemed pretty angry at celebrities. They argued that people were only famous because of media, and that it was media's fault that these unworthy folk were in front of us all the time (Britney, Lindsay, and Paris got it the worst). But then the same students who bashed the media who brought us this unworthy triumvirate used the media to bash the celebrities.
So it was "I hate that I read about you all the time, and now I'm going to hang you by the words I hate."
These student writers also said that celebrities don't think about politics, have nothing worthy to do or say, no ambition except, of course, to be seen. It was the most judgmental batch of essays I'd read in my life.
So now I need a thesis about celebrity that will help me frame things.
When I have run into celebrities in my life, I've had the weird sensation that I could turn to him or her and start talking. Once, Robin Williams sat down next to me at John Irving reading, and I was about ready to have a nice long chat with him because I felt I knew him. I'd seen him in all those TV shows and films, and he was, well, "mine." The good news here is that I didn't say a word, as I recognized that he wasn't mine and talking at a reading is just plain rude.
But if we are shown pictures and video and TV shows full of certain people all the time wouldn't this reaction be more common? Wouldn't we believe we own this people or, at least, know them?
So when my students beat up Britney, they are beating up the image we have been given of her. Poor thing. There she is newly and baldly shorn, wailing away at a gate with an umbrella. She's pantiless getting out of a car. She's drunk. She's chubby in a string bikini. She's holding her kids. She's crashing her car. She's wearing really unattractive outfits. She's drinking a gigantic Starbucks coffee and then going through the drive-thru at In and Out Burger. On and on and on. We think, that woman is a loopy, fast-food addicted nutball. We see more of the same. We know it is all true.
And then we write a paper, seeming to be an authority on this person, who is in actuality a person. Who thinks about politics and world issues and has feelings. But we don't know that because we don't know her at all.
Few, if any, of my students yesterday went into the topic this way. Most are younger than I--much younger--and have been raised with Entertainment Tonight and TMZ.com and now Facebook and Myspace. they are given the flash few of folks over and over again. Paris Hilton may in fact be a total idiot, but we can't know that until we've actually met her. And no one writing yesterday had. But you wouldn't have realized that while reading the essays. She was boxed up and wrapped as a brainless twit, and nothing I said or say could likely change their minds.
I don't think I'd like to ever be in that celebrity position. the money might be nice. But knowing that I was judged and written about based on my celebrity performances, based on random photos and videos would be very hard to bear. Knowing twenty-year-olds were excoriating me based on one interview might just hurt too much.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
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