Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Where things are hollow

Every era can be defined, quite succinctly, by who it deifies. Prophets. Politicians. Powerbrokers. Poets. Us, well, we worship at an entirely different altar: celebrities. I say this knowing full well that I am among the ranks of huddled masses laying sacrificial offerings at the feet of the famous. I love pop culture, I steep in its bubbly froth daily. But that doesn’t mean I always drink to intoxication. And it doesn’t mean it can’t worry about where our addiction will ultimately lead us.

I say this as news of another high-profile death surfaced yesterday. Casey Johnson – heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, daughter of the New York Jets owner, lesbian socialite, Tila Tequila fiancée, mother to a 2-year-old daughter and a 30-year-old young woman – was found dead in her L.A. home. Other than those well-publicized profile points, I don’t really know anything about Casey. Most people probably don’t. I didn’t follow her life or exploits in anything more than the most peripheral way. But now, less than a month after she made a seemingly unavoidable splash on the red carpet with Tila, talking about their engagement and landing on gossip pages everywhere, she is gone.

Fame can’t save the famous, and it certainly can’t save the rest of us unknowns either.

But what this sad situation really reveals is our evolving esteem for celebrity. Sure, we all still worship there, but we don’t necessarily like the demigods we created in the first place. How else can you explain the vitriol that followed Casey’s death toward her self-proclaimed fiancée? Of course, much of it unfolded on what has become our new town square: Twitter. This is, after all, the age of the 140-character eulogy. Tila tweeted her grief, then tweeted that Casey was actually in a coma, then tweeted she wasn’t in a coma while confirming the worse, then tweeted for privacy. It was a mess and it was unseemly and that’s life sometimes.

Granted, defending her is not my mission here. If you want to distill that relentless drive for fame down to its most concentrated form, I think what would come out of the spigot would look remarkably like Tila Tequila. I’m not a fan, but I wish her no ill will. I certainly wouldn’t, as some in the professional asshole business have done, call her a “vile subhuman” or chastise her for “clawing your way from the F list to the D list of fame” within the same hour she found out that the person she was at the very least friends with had died.

But then, that’s the flip side of our obsession. We’ve become contemptuous of our own creations. Because it wasn’t just Perez offering up harsh condolences, but so many anonymous others lambasting and lashing out, cackling and crowing. Which is just so strange to me. What would drive a perfect stranger to write someone at a traumatic time and tell her she sucks? What glee can be gained from such shaming? Is it simply revenge against those who have – even in the most superficial way – made it to that mountaintop?

I don’t know; I’m not sure I want to know. But I do know that death, no matter the person, is terrible and sad. And fame, no matter the kind, doesn’t change that. Not one bit.

22 comments:

wrongway said...

That Perez thinks he has any room to stand on regarding the death of celebrity is laughable. He has made his fame off of bottom feeding and maliciousness. Entertaining? yes. Principled or honorable? I think not.

linster said...

Excellent post, my friend.

Anonymous said...

I agree that a lot of people seem to find joy in knocking others down. Even when you read an article in the news and they have a comments section, there is always someone having to say the writer is stupid and sucks. I don't get it. What is the point? The same with Perez...why does he constantly pick on the same people over and over again? What is wrong with Vanessa Hudgins, Fergie, or even Lindsay Lohan? They are just trying to live their lives, as we all are.

Bent said...

That Perez or anyone like him even has an audience confounds and saddens me. The movie Idiocracy doesn't seem so far-fetched when considering this fact.
Ms. Snarker, thanks for this article. You are a light in the dark places.

barbarellaisbi said...

this was really nice and well put- thanks for raising the bar.

Anonymous said...

Dorothy, it's very simple. If you don't like what you see over at L Chat on Zetaboards, don't look. Unlike real life, the Internet is a very-pick-and-choose type of environment. Then again, that would be too easy, as you acquire half of your material from there, in addition to various Tumblrs. It's those 'anonymous commenters' that have helped you over the years.

L Chatter said...

I agree with Anonymous. For example, I don't agree with a lot of the articles/bloggers on AE and don't see the relevance of many of them to the LGBT community, so I no longer visit that website, it's simple really, I suggest Ms. Snarker does the same.

crustybastard said...

Well done again, Ms Snarker.

Short answer: some people never leave Junior High.

Anonymous said...

Rock on Ms. Snarker. Still one of the best commentators out there. Haters fail when they crawl out of their own sludge to try to take a bite.

Carol said...

What I reacted to (and recoiled from) was the crassness of (over?) emoting and giving a play by play to a presumably personal tragedy, very deliberately and purposefully, in the most shallow (due to word count if nothing else) public forum possible.

I think that is an illustration of the worst aspects of modern celebrity and modern ideas of how to conduct yourselves and jeesus, isn't anything sacred, people?

If that makes me a bad person to reject or object to this behavior, then so be it. No, I wouldn't hunt down TT's twitter just to give her sh*t at a moment like this and I wouldn't spew any name calling over it, either.

But it's just sad behavior all around and bizarre to me that this IS our current public square and I wish we all were better than our lowest impulses via our spankin' new technologies.

tlsintx said...

every human life, and death, is sacred..

we've got a long way to go.

Miss Jae said...

i agree we love to knock down the rich and famous and admit to participating in such, however most people i knock, i never put on that pedestal to begin with and struggle comprehending how these people became famous.

as for tila, though my first thoughts were "why are you tweeting at a time like this?" and truly believe she wasn't as close to her "fiance" as she claims, i don't agree with publicized comments attacking her at the moment. if you gotta wonder or trash talk, do so quietly in your head. why kick 'em when they're down?

Ashley said...

I forget where I read this, but you say it just as well: “Many people lack a spiritual belief system and fill that void with obsessions about celebrities. The celebrities are raised to the rank of gods, and these earthy gods will always fail the expectations the masses have set for them. The cycle runs thusly: adoration turns to obsession, obsession turns to disappointment, and from disappointment it is just a short emotional jump to contempt.” – Donna Phillips

dc said...

The sentiments of this article is why I keep coming back to Ms. Snarker's site.

There's a lot of poisonous sharks out there in cyberspace; toxic and mean spirited.

You call them out on it: Perez and the rest of the bloodsuckers. They gleefully feed on other people's misfortunes. And it gets nauseous.

Thanks for your sanity.

kiwi-poette said...

I fully agree. Sympathy is always a good sentiment.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

Human nature, unfortunately, can be destructive: Build something up, then burn it to ruins and salt the Earth.
I've quit reading so much pop news and gossip because there simply has to be more to life. There has to be!

nickmellish said...

Fantastic post. Not so much one which hits the nail on the head, as one which purchases the nail first and then lines it up with a crowd watching at the time of hammering.

betseyb said...

Ashley-I wholeheartedly disagree with your quote from Donna Phillips. I've seen many a spiritual people, have strange strange celebrity obsessions and make immoral, unhealthy choices. It might comfort some to think that lack of spirituality fuels unhealthy behavior but that would be totally unfounded and untrue. It comes down to personal choice and how you want to act as a person.
Dorothy-awesome post, as usual.

H said...

You have a wise and wonderful heart, chica.

Anonymous said...

I actually think that Tila is sad because she has so little real friends to share in her grief that she has to tweet about it.

Miss Jae said...

after seeing tila intentionally pose for the paps outside her house smiling with perfect hair and make-up and boobs appropriately propped up hanging out of her shirt, all during this mourning period...i retract my comment, this child is nothing but a media whore.

petrenkov said...

It is very interesting for me to read the article. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to them. I would like to read more on that blog soon.

Truly yours
Timm Clade