In Praise of Mses. Hilton and Spears

Paris HiltonI fight a constant battle with myself. Sometimes, especially in the midst of writer’s block, I want so bad to post something lambasting Celebrity X for something they’ve done, said, or felt. Maybe Paris Hilton for violating parole, maybe for sobbing as she was taken back to prison.

One frequent victim of people’s undue ire, at least recently, has been Britney Spears. She’s a bad parent, they say, a mid-rehab addict, a baldy, and a failed comeback.

I am not here to claim that Mses. Spears and Hilton haven’t made some mistakes in their lives. But what 26 year old American woman hasn’t made a mistake or two that they’re not proud of? What American citizen hasn’t made a mistake or two they aren’t proud of? What person hasn’t?

And yet we all too easily forget this. In lamenting this very fact, Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen wrote on 5 March, that we are allowing “savagery without shame [and] judgment without knowledge. All the train-wreck titillation without any of the nasty empathy aftertaste.”

To Quindlen, this problem is caused by national rather than local gossip. She argues that peepers have become an industry with no shame.

Though I think she’s not wrong in this account, I think it is a more than this alone. Though she argues that savage gossip has always existed in some capacity, Quindlen gives the current state too little credit, and perhaps too little outrage.

In the time that gossip was local, the dirty little deed was preformed with some sense of shame. These foibles of local women were whispered; today our gossip is shouted.

And perhaps more embarrassingly, they are passed off as news. Yesterday afternoon, a quick flip of the channels showed that CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News were all covering, at great length, Paris Hilton’s trip back to jail.

The leaders of the 8 most powerful countries in the world had a summit this week. They invited 5 others (Brazil, South Africa, China, India and Mexico) to join them for some discussions to encourage greater collaboration around the world. Today the President met with both Italian president Romano Prodi and the Pope. And yet we spend time discussing whether or not the sentence the judge gave to Paris Hilton was excessive.

I realize that my disgust won’t banish this trend. I suppose all I can hope is that my disappointment will find a companion. That perhaps someone with some power to change this sorry state has a sympathetic ear.