RSS

Tag Archives: Celebrity

Sideshow

freaks

It’s now been several generations since we considered a carnival sideshow an acceptable form of entertainment. Today photos or drawings from early 20th century circuses tend to evoke gasps. It’s jarring to consider that people who had an unconventional appearance were put on display and were considered entertainment. What societal limitations caused people to take to the circus tent? What kind of people would take pleasure in viewing a ‘freak show’? We will cover these and other questions in Intro To Reality Television: Evolution and Devolution.

After the Elephant Man heyday of the late 19th century and early 20th century, Americans got hold of themselves and backed away from such voyeurism and exhibitionism. Later, with the advent of political correctness we bowed our heads in shame and taught our children not to point. If we came across a midnight showing of Freaks (1932) we watched it in the dark, with a certain amount of guilt. And then we got our base groove back. Sometime during the Reagan boom years we found comfort in gawking at the rich. It’s okay to gawk and make spectacle of those (economically) better off, right? Robin Leach was the mid-1980s barker of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and we gawked. He paved the way for us to release our pent up desires. Soon the business of celebrity boomed, to feed our insatiable appetite for fodder. It was okay to gawk and poke fun at people who had what we did not. But like any indulgence, it lost its ability to satisfy. Soon it wasn’t enough to see a child actress implode in front of our eyes. After a dozen or so of those kids, it ceases to impress.

Media abhors a vacuum, and can spot a hole in the market from space. Cue the new wave of reality television. A modern audience would not be satisfied with viewing a stock still anomaly on a stage, we are happier to see these specimens in their ‘natural’ habitat. We want to see people with their; 6,8,12,18,20 children going about their daily lives. Viewing wealthy people’s staged homes is no longer enough. We need to see them in prompted dramas. We need to see them dressed in award ceremony gowns to attend barbecues. We want to see them squabbling and behaving like junior high school students. We care little that there is no real wealth (and often bankruptcy.) Who cares that a title has been purchased, the hair is synthetic and the faces could be used as flotation devices? What we love is the sideshow behavior. It matters not that the behavior is created for our viewing pleasure. Who really cares that a toddler’s beauty pageant (in a sad little rural motel) is the most boring event one could ever imagine? With enough manufactured histrionics and adept editing, it’s more fun than a cross-dressing General Tom Thumb. Having a messy house, clipping coupons, or choosing a dress, are a snore fest. But throw in a few “No she didn’ts” or a litany of psychobabble and you’ve got yourself a show. The more fragile a participant is, the better the show. Make them cry, make them sound certifiable, and we’ll grab our chips and put down the remote. Emotional instability not your thing? Fear not, we’ve got shows about little people, the conjoined, the fattest man, the fattest woman, and the tattooed. Sound familiar? P.T. Barnum would be so proud.

In preparation of our next session: Professions Made To Look Glamorous; please review Baking, Trucking, Fishing shows and the newest addition to the golden age of television: The Search Is on for the Best Hooker in America.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Table Manners

Celebrity interviews seem to always include a question about celebrity itself.  This question is answered more often than not with the wholesale disingenuous; “Well, it does get me a good table in a restaurant.”  No doubt this reply has become shorthand for; “I am hesitant to admit what we all know, which is in fact that I am worthy of special treatment.”  Okay, that’s fine.  I have no issue, per se, with self-delusion.

What does baffle me, is what in the world a “good table” is?  For me it means; clean, not directly under the air conditioning or speaker system, non-teetering and the right size for the party.  But I think it means something entirely different in this context.  Recently I watched a (current) movie in which a diva character pitched a fit about not being at a “good table.”  I’ve even had dining companions make reference to “getting a good table.”  Clearly, once again, I am socially clueless.

I am almost certain that there are few if any tables actually by the kitchen door.  (I’m thinking of the night club scenes in On The Town and certain Carol Burnett sketches.)  So what then is the criteria for a “good table” and what exactly does it have to do with the dining experience?  I suspect perhaps it has something to do with visibility?  But this is where it gets tricky.  To be seen or not to be seen, that is the question.

If you consider yourself a celebrity, is being seen a plus?  Can’t being too visible threaten one’s air of elusiveness?   Doesn’t being front and center in a venue filled with one’s lessers merely tempt intrusion and hangers on?  Or is a “good table” one in fact that allows a peaceful dinner, similar to those had by mortals?  If so, wouldn’t the party be better served in private (a la Nicky Arnstein?)

Perhaps it means nothing.  A temporary and disposable bon mot meant to fill a void.  If you look at a paper moon long enough…

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Cultural Critique

 

Tags: , , ,

Betty Ford

Betty Ford has died.  I will never be confused for a political analyst, and my childhood memories are as suspect as anyone’s.  However, I am struck with the idea that Mrs. Ford was an American pioneer.  Long before the Huffington Post, the country knew Mrs. Ford’s opinions on serious social issues.  Decades (and generations) before any First Lady would be criticized for being politically vocal, Mrs. Ford made her position known on such subjects as legalized abortion, the ERA and premarital sex (remember, this was the 1970s, premarital sex was still up for discussion as a social ill.)

Before we had the luxury of watching newsreaders have their colon examined on national television, Betty Ford went public with her bout of breast cancer.  Before there were little pink ribbons, Mrs. Ford inspired tens of thousands of women to be screened and seek treatment.

Forty years before people would make a career from their public struggles with addiction, Mrs. Ford went public with her struggles.  She helped to create the treatment center which is now such a part of the American vernacular it is used as a verb.

Long before Gawker or AwfulPlasticSurgery.com, the world knew (and saw) Betty Ford’s face lift.  Almost unrecognizable to the yet untrained American eye, Mrs. Ford lifted her face proudly.

I know little, if anything of her husband’s politics (save for the pardon) but I am willing to venture that Mrs. Ford’s “firsts” outweigh her husband’s.  For better or worse, she really was our nation’s first; Public Figures, They’re Just Like Us!Bet

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Cultural Critique

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,