Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quit throwing virgins into the volcano: Sacrificing Celebrities

Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Amy Winehouse. Each of these women has helped sell millions of tabloid magazines; the issues that usually sell the best are the ones that celebrate their misery.
There's nothing we like better than to see these women taken down. We laugh, watch and read with morbid curiosity as each young woman spirals into self-destruction--look at her cry, look at her stumble, look at her fall apart. Jealousy often fuels our curiosity and binds our attention; the celebrity of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian compel us to ask, "Why are they rich and famous? They’ve never done anything useful."
Amy Winehouse was incredibly talented, but that didn't stop us from taking pleasure in her fall from grace.

Society punishes these young women. They didn't start out as train wrecks; we pushed them to be that way. Many of the young girls we relish being ripped apart the most started out as the most innocent.
The latest trend is figuring out which former young Disney star will fall down next. Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus all started out with squeaky-clean, wholesome images. We push them to be adults before they're ready, and then punish them when they're not. We love sacrificing virgins to the volcano.

I can probably remember every mean thing ever said to me. I can think of specific insults that crumbled my self-esteem. Why do we think that all the insults heaped upon these young women won't hurt them? We convince ourselves that our hate is all in good fun.

If a starlet is told enough times that she's stupid, she's a slut, she's not in control, she's going to start to believe it. Combine that with constant media pressure and attention, and it's no wonder they break. Some of them have tried to play the game, use the attention to their advantage; Paris Hilton is probably the best example of this. As a result she's probably one of the most hated.

It's a slippery slope, to keep our attention they need to play into our caricatures of them. They get more attention when they seem unintelligent, vain, drunk, vapid. Like unloved, unnoticed children, they act out; they seek any attention, even if it's negative.

We pay the most attention when they hit rock bottom. We're giddy with excitement when Paris Hilton cries on her way to jail; when Britney Spears shaves off all her hair and attacks the paparazzi with an umbrella; when Lindsay Lohan is caught shoplifting. Their pain provides us deep pleasure.

Though male celebrities also get dragged through the media mud, we're not as harsh on them. Mel Gibson has hate piled on him for beating and threatening his ex-wife and for making drunken anti-Semitic remarks. Still, the phrase 'I hate Paris Hilton' gets 21,400,000 results on Google, whereas 'I hate Mel Gibson' gets just 9,830,000.

Many people hate Justin Bieber, but he’s not on the receiving end of the same public execution mentality that young female celebs face. Most of the hate towards him is because he's not 'macho' enough. How many 'Justin Bieber looks like a girl' jokes and comments have you personally heard?

Few people seem to notice the connection between the hate of these young women and the hate of women in general. For us women, by hating these young girls, we hate ourselves. We're too busy cutting them and each other apart to notice what's really happening in the world. We spend so much energy hating Kim Kardashian that we don't notice women getting paid less, getting beaten, getting raped. We don't notice the environment falling apart. We don't notice the rich getting richer, while we work harder to make ends meet. Hating celebrities makes it easier to hate girls at school that are prettier, hate other women at work that are more successful, easier to hate each other and hate ourselves. “Feminism provided the culture to admire women for their qualities, not their visual appearance,” said the psychologist Jacqui Marson, “now the whole celebrity-magazine culture has given us permission to direct our gaze at women’s minute physical flaws and choices, and to pick them apart. There has been a big shift, and the feeling of sisterhood we used to have doesn’t exist anymore.”

Hate can be a terrible thing, it can also push us to fight for what's right. Hate racism, hate oppression, hate sexism, hate cruelty, hate homophobia. You don't have to love Kim Kardashian, but hating her isn't helping her or society, and it certainly isn’t helping yourself.

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