Monday, February 26, 2007

Celebrity Gossip: Bringing the Little People Together

In high school, I was smitten with Leonardo DiCaprio. You know how it is when you’re a teenager—I artfully arranged a collage of his face on my wall; I owned Romeo + Juliet and The Basketball Diaries; I watched reruns of the season Leo was on Growing Pains; I even convinced my group of friends that Leo and I would someday be together (turns out he’s more in to supermodels than Midwestern bloggers).

Eventually, my crush on Leo faded into the background of my consciousness. But last night at a friend’s Oscar party, I was questioned when I said, “I’d like to see Leo win the Oscar.” I had no better reason than, “because I was in love with him in high school.”

Truth is, I haven’t seen Blood Diamond. Or The Departed. Or any of the movies except Little Miss Sunshine (which, if you haven’t seen it, is amazing). Why? Because I am not a movie person (collective gasp!). Not only am I not a movie person in general, I tend to choose to watch movies based on the likelihood that they will not depress or disturb me. In my old age, I no longer cope well on-screen depictions of violence, rape, death, drug abuse, or serious mental health issues. Most critically acclaimed movies these days include at least one of the aforem. I prefer the predicable laughs and anxiety-free plots lines of “Frat Pack” movies.

Despite the fact I’m a not a movie person, I watched the entire nearly four-hour broadcast of the Oscars last night. I am, if you hadn’t noticed, a celebrity person. And, when anyone at the party asked a celebrity-related question, such as “Isn’t Leo single now?” I was the first to answer with, “No, he’s supposedly dating another model, Bar something... I don't know. Gisele is with Tom Brady, who knocked up his ex-girlfriend Bridget Moynahan. She’s three months pregnant.” While others had seen all of the nominated movies and knew the names of obscure actors and the details of their filmography, I knew who was supposedly dating whom, what the stars had worn on previous red carpets, and how much weight they had reportedly lost after their breakups.

Sometimes the depth of knowledge I retain about celebrities confuses and bewilders me. How did this happen? Sure, I keep E! News on in the background while I’m making dinner and I regularly read the celeb gossip-filled back page of the Red Eye, but it’s just one page! I rarely read the celebrity magazines (though I will pick them up at the gym if I’m going to ride the stationary bike) and I hardly ever check the celebrity blogs (something BIG has to be happening to for me to go there). Somehow though, celebrity culture has seeped into my brain and is taking up precious space that could be utilized for something far more important, I’m sure.

Is there any value in celebrity gossip? I can think of a few people who might argue that I am contributing to the downfall of our society, but I’m here to defend our celeb-crazed culture… sort of.

For better or worse, “real” news outlets—including all major network news programs (not just the Today Show and GMA), CNN, Fox News, the AP— now report on celebrity hookups, breakups, babies, and scandals—stories once primarily reserved for tabloids. We could easily debate whether or not it’s appropriate for these outlets to include Britney Spears’ latest antics and the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes among stories about soldiers in Iraq and the 2008 presidential race; we could speculate why they report on celebrities… is it for ratings or is it because reporters believe giving the people what we want? The fact remains that even if you shield yourself from every rag screaming headlines like, “Paris Exposed” and “Britney's Cry for Help,” and refuse to entertain the idea of watching Access Hollywood or E! News, you probably know that Britney shaved her head and went to rehab, and Angelina Jolie filed papers to adopt a Vietnamese child.

Celebrity news has become common ground for the general public, shared knowledge that we can use to relate to one another without the polarizing effects politics, war, and social issues have on conversations. In a weird way, celebrity gossip brings us together. It might tear apart certain starlets who can’t get their lives under control, but it gives the rest of us something to talk about with strangers, acquaintances, business associates, hairdressers, personal trainers, the occasional shopkeeper. So… in terms of the Universe, karma, etc., I’d say we’re about even.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

We are more alike than I ever could have imagined. In high school I would not date boys I went to school with because I was saving myself for Leo. I wrote a five page report on Leo, his movies and the impact they both had on popular culture for my world history final project in high school. Uh huh, you read that right, world history. I got a 105 thanks to my excess of sources and my ability to complete a visual presentation without any notes. After Titanic my obsession faded while his popularity rose. It wasn't until I saw The Departed that it sparked again and for the last three months I have been tracking his every move and convincing myself that we will meet and he will drop that Israli Bar (Bar, I mean really, who's named after a drinking establishment and hurdle)for my wit and tiny stature. But yeah, um, Leo was looking pretty fly at the Oscars.