Celebrity culture: think about it

By Jon Roe

The rumours are out there. TomKat is breaking up. Though Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ publicist denies it, and even if it is currently false, it’s still only a matter of time before this celebrity couple supernova explodes. Hollywood is infamous for producing failed marriages that gain more notoriety than any individual film or star. The only unfortunate aspect of this is the fact that this celebrity gossip will continue to be shoved down our throats. While trite, stories about Tom Cruise jumping on couches perforate magazines like Us Weekly and shows like Entertainment Tonight and are all readily swallowed, important events like medical advancements, scientific achievements and political happenings are generally ignored.

Celebrity lives have become an escape for people. Rather than digesting complex issues with far more ramifications, people are content with snacking on drugs, eating disorders and other celebrity non-events. More people dying in Iraq? Forget that, how much food did that Lohan girl throw up? Protests about cartoons? Who cares, Mary Kate did what with a pineapple? It’s easy to see why people would more readily consume one tidbit of news over another, but it’s in no way acceptable. The world is full of complex and engaging problems, and taking solace in skanky stars getting skinnier and jacked up won’t make those problems disappear.

The fact is, if we, as a society, spent more time worrying about our own problems as a whole and less about whether Britney Spears is pregnant with another make-shift airbag, we would be farther along the road to solving those problems. Current culture is obsessed with its celebrities, glorifying some who lack discernible talents or reasons for celebration. Paris Hilton taped herself having sex with a sleazy guy in a hotel–apparently a recipe for instant stardom. Despite her lack of other marketable skills, Hilton makes decent bank by shitting terrible reality shows and awful movie spots in our mouths over and over again.

Hilton is famous for her character, and using the term loosely, her personality. When you watch an episode of the Simple Life or read an article about her bashing other talentless celebrities, you know exactly what to expect. Audiences have grown to hate surprises.

Numerous recent stars, like Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler and the aforementioned Tom Cruise, have made careers out of playing the same character in every movie. When these stars stray from their established formula, audiences punish them. Jim Carrey was the crazy, outrageously goofy guy until Cable Guy came out. In Cable Guy, he was a little scary. In reaction to this new Carrey, the movie tanked. Adam Sandler was the funny asshole and when he took a turn at a more serious role in Punch Drunk Love, the film was out grossed nearly six fold by the cookie-cutter project Mr. Deeds. As for Tom Cruise, his entire film career of the better part of the last 20 years can be summed up by one movie–Top Gun.

Cruise receives in excess of $20 million as a base salary per film, in addition to his cuts of ticket sales, DVDs, action figures, and all the related paraphernalia. Movie companies don’t pay him for his acting skill. No, Cruise receives $20 million for the aforementioned traits which have become the Cruise brand. Though type casting supposedly ruins actors’ careers after long runs on popular sitcoms, in effect, audiences are rewarding it. Ashton Kutcher has managed to turn his stupid TV character into numerous stupid movie characters.

Part of promoting these new homogenized images of actors has been the gossip about their personal lives, irrelevant to their acting pedigree. Nothing benefited the movie Mr. And Mrs. Smith more than the rumour floating around that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were bumping nasties between takes and behind Jennifer Anniston’s back. When it proved to be true the hype surrounding the movie only increased, ignoring the lack of plot, characterization, or y’know… anything. In a similar way, rumours about TomKat fuel the couple’s popularity. Once Katie Holmes finished Dawson’s Creek, she dwelled in mediocrity for a few years before hitting the image grand slam of landing the bat-shit-insane Tom Cruise. Even when the relationship detonates, Holmes will be able to enjoy the PR fallout for the rest of her career. Especially when Cruise becomes a recluse Scientologist high priest, mumbling about hydrogen bombs and alien souls.

As more and more of our time is devoted to worshipping celebrities and ignoring the real world, our pressing concerns won’t go away. Even though these stars we hold in such high regard rarely do anything worth celebrating, they are glorified for actions most people would be untouchable for. Snorting coke, recording sex, forcing a religion on a loved one, ruining furniture, and throwing up meal after meal are all part of the current recipe for Hollywood success.

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