Tag Archives: Sandra Lee

Step Right Up And See The Show!


Is there anyone so decent as to not enjoy watching the mighty slip and fall? Schadenfreude; it’s not just fun to say! There is nothing shameful in experience just the tiniest thrill when celebrities’ true colors are flown in full view. It’s not that we’ve been campaigning for their demise or even giving it a moment’s thought. It’s just that sooner or later we grow tired of the monsters we’ve created.

A celebrity is nothing more than someone who has orchestrated our interest. They could not exist were it not for our buy-in. Playing a sport well does not make you a celebrity (as anyone who’s played an obscure sport in the Olympics) nor does proficiency in the arts (quick: who’s the ‘2013 Face of Oboists’?) Being a celebrity means we know who you are. That’s all. Sometimes the phenomenon is accidental; say, the result of landing an airplane safely in the Hudson River. But statistically speaking far more celebrities are self-created.

Most of us, even while queuing up to see the latest blockbuster or buying the latest gizmo or gadget, mildly resent being manipulated. We don’t mind it enough to stop buying what’s being sold but on some level it rankles just a tad. Which is why it makes things a bit entertaining when they go awry. Our pleasure is less distasteful due to the fact that these people will rise from the (artfully placed) ashes. Anyone who has come from a blue-collar New Jersey town, or sold sandwiches or window treatments door to door is going to bounce back just fine. These are scrappy and ingenious self-promoters who will not go gently into obscurity. Sure they might put a Kmart contract at risk while in the slammer, but don’t you shed a tear. They will figure out how to get the biggest publicity bang out of the experience. That’s the beauty of celebrity. Who you are and what you can do are immaterial; it’s all about your barker skills. Placing gourds around your home in the fall, adding mayonnaise to every meal or using ‘really good vanilla’ are not unique or even mildly interesting techniques. But describing these endeavors with proper lighting, condescending tone or good-ole girl twang, is a great gimmick. (And you know, it really is best to get a gimmick.)

So when these celebrities who have cultivated a brand of ‘don’t you wish you were me?” have their underbelly exposed it’s just a tiny bit satisfying. We are not disappointed and distressed as we are when elected officials or society folks show their worst selves. Instead we have just a nanosecond of ‘no, I really don’t wish I were you.’ We still buy the junk they’re selling of course. But for at least a moment we will be aware of the ingredients. And being aware of what we consume, even if it’s only for a moment, is never a bad thing.


Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing


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The Personal Is Political

During the rare moments I was cognizant of a presidential election occurring in France, I wondered why we never heard of the candidate’s personal life.  I chalked it up to my own media feed not being as international as it should be.  Being an American, my experience with presidential races is that the public is wildly interested in high school antics, college-age romantic dalliances, inhaling, spouse’s income sources, how the dog travels, etc.  If you aren’t assured that a candidate watches the same television shows as you do or eats the same snack foods, how in the world can you make an informed decision?

Now that President Hollande is in office, a bit of his personal life is finding its way into our media.  His first lady (Ms. Trierweiler) is a twice-divorced mother and works for Paris Match.  They (somewhat surprisingly) will be the first non-married first couple of France.  This seems to be of interest to the French from the perspective of protocol.  After all, the highest offices are nothing if not bastions of antiquated protocols.  President Hollande was not living in secret; the voters knew of his marital status and voted for him.  It’s hard to imagine this happening in the United States.  Yes, the governor of New York is living with his partner without benefit of marriage.  But would voters have been disinterested in this arrangement if he wasn’t the son of a former governor and she didn’t have her own television show?  Doubtful.  Americans love a good scion story as much as they love celebrity.

Who one chooses to whisper goodnight to at the end of every day has nothing to do with job qualifications.  The only time when one’s personal life should become public is when his/her position and/or office are involved.  So why is it that we obsess over such things?  Why do we care whom and how people love?  I’m not so sure we actually do.  I think it is far easier to understand someone’s personal life (we all presumably have one of those) than to wrap one’s brain around the complexities of the issues.  International economics, national security, international relations, national economy, higher education, medical care, aging nation, worker readiness, jobs, housing, climate… Need I go on?  The issues are endless, particularly during a time of economic uncertainty.

If our candidate’s messages are being parceled out into lunchable size (and quality) it’s because we buy them and gobble them up.  If there really was a time that we sat down and read lengthy narratives about a candidate, it’s long gone.  Are we just lazier now; our attention spans withered into nubs?  Maybe.  Is it that with globalization comes too much information?  Probably.  Perhaps I’m romanticizing, but to my mind fifty years ago, the most one had to know about the rest of the world was; “we can kick their ass, right?”

If we’re lucky there will be one presidential debate in which the candidates discuss their ideas and what their plans are for implementation.  Will we watch it (either in real time or streamed?)  Or will we rely on what others tell us?  Can a candidate really be blamed for going for the soundbite when it stands to reason that is what the greatest majority of voters will actually hear?

There’s so much noise now living along side so many vital issues.  These are not the makings of a good marriage.


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