August 31, 2005

Celebrities: Just Like Us?

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Given the title of this column, you would think I’d be a little more forgiving towards obnoxious conventions of the popular culture variety. Perhaps, I’d even embrace them or look forward to seeing them each week as they are delivered to my mailbox conveniently packaged in little bundles of love known as In Touch Magazine. And you would be wrong in assuming any of those things. Hello? I am totally an Us Weekly type of girl! The beauty of Us Weekly is the notorious “Celebrities: They’re just like us!” section, which features Hollywood’s finest performing a plethora of mundane, plebian tasks like grocery shopping or chewing. Despite the annoying fact that the section frequently tends to read like a product placement for Starbucks, there’s just something completely memorizing about seeing Kristen Durst about to shove a chunk of salad in her mouth while her face is frozen mid-chew, contorted and slightly monstrous.

My point is that this pointless, content-free type of “journalism” is what I want when I seek out celebrity news. I want my magazines in full color, glossy and filled to the brim with high quality photo spreads each with minimal captioning for only identification purposes. Say what you want, but thinking that a giant, neon yellow circle around Dense Richard’s left ring finger connected by an equally yellow arrow to the words “She’s wearing Charlie’s ring!” counts as an infographic probably means you need to reevaluate your life.

Anyway, things are all hugs and puppies until someone gets the bright idea that it might be a good investment to hire some writers. What? Thanks, but no thanks. Unfortunately, this type of innovative thinking has led to some of the most dreaded phenomena in celebrity journalism. Today I bring you two of my favorites: celebrity vocabulary and celebrity secrets.

If you’re too young to remember, there was a time when “hunk” was merely a qualitative way to measure something. Now, it’s apparently an adjective that Jake Gyllenhaal can put on his resume, if he should choose to do so. Reading slightly upper-tier tabloid magazines has unfortunately bombarded me with this new gossip-mag writing style. Like statistics, gossip writers continuously attempt to infuse old words with new, non-related meanings. How else can you explain the word “squeeze,” another entry on my “most hated” words list right after “heartthrob,” that is apparently being revived as a synonym for “significant other” or more precisely, “latest hookup.” Unless you are describing, in purely technical terms, the production of orange juice or your horrendous experience on the 9:52 a.m. bus from Collegetown to central campus, this word should just be abandoned.

Moving on, there is only type of news in the land of celebrity and that type of news is secret news. What exactly am I talking about? Well, let’s just say that nothing really matters unless it is a secret; secret weddings, secret pregnancies, secret engagements, secret break ups and secret affairs with not-so-secret nannies of one’s entirely non-secret children. Since the revelation of secrets in real life would usually generate some type of surprise, magazines have decided that the revelation of secrets in celebrity life would probably generate a super nova amount of surprise and reader$$$hip.

Unfortunately, the secret exploitation is getting out of hand. Do we really care if Celebrity X secretly bought Celebrity Y’s new house while Celebrity Z has secretly started a new diet and Celebrity N has secretly started decorating his or her new loft? Furthermore, secret exploitation has essentially screwed up everybody’s truth-sensing abilities and now we’re suspicious of any kind of first-hand, volunteered celebrity news. You’re publicly announcing your engagement? What a publicity stunt! You and your husband are expecting a baby? Yeah, I wonder who the father is. Don’t get me wrong. I admit that I read these sometimes insane, always trashy magazines in an entirely unhealthy way but if you’re going to be shameless, you might as well go all the way.

Archived article by Tracy Zhang
Arts and Entertainment Editor