Thanks to Hatequest 2007 being extended by two days, I now have an opportunity to vomit a small amount of the sheer bile I feel for humanity nowadays into the endless digital expanses of the internet. Because it seems that noticeably, the average person in the UK cannot move without being exposed to harmful, mind-destroying, lowest-common-denominator junk food news prolefeed drivel. We are in the midst of a cultural vacuum here in 2007, in which artistry, talent, creativity, and intellectualism are sneered at in favour of populism, media manipulation, tedium, and pseudo-intellectualism. Now I could most likely hold forth for days solid on why modern life is rubbish - and some people already have, anyhow, so I'm going to restrain myself. It's ranting time, and today's subject is Celebrities, and So-Called Celebrity "Culture."
So first of all, we need to determine what exactly is the hallmark of the useless celebrity. Obviously, "celebrity" comes from the Latin "celebrare" to celebrate, and is a person who is celebrated. Of course, this is a very wide criterion so, in this rant, we'll cut out those people who are "celebrities" for actually doing something worthwhile and reduce it to those who are, well, famous for being famous, as is the current sense of the word. After that, we'll go through the so-called "culture" that surrounds these oxygen thieves, and how the two phenomenons feed on each other, like a shit-fuelled perpetual motion machine.
I - The Cesspit of Celebrity
So who are these cretins that inspire such loathing in your Most Humble Narrator? Well, they divide themselves into three main categories, as we shall see a little later on, but first, we need to address their main characteristics.
A - The Principle of Evil...
By far and away the most obvious defining characteristic of the useless celebrity is that they appear in trashy magazines of the sort that would be considered "supermarket tabloids" in the US. Heat, Now, Closer, all are prime examples of how to sell toilet paper for thrice its market price. And, unfortunately, the publishers behind these rags are coining it in, for reasons we shall see in part (II).
What these magazines generally consist of is about 64 pages, each containing one or more pictures of people. Usually pictures of them partly posing for telephoto-lens equipped press cameras, partly in a state of surprise. These photos usually depict the alleged celebrity in some sort of profoundly shocking situation of grave ramifications, such as being drunk and falling out of nightclubs at 5am, having put on half a pound of weight, wearing a new pair of shoes, or similar. This in turn creates a vicious circle, given the disproportionate circulation of these periodicals, in which the non-entity in question's popularity is artificially forced up, so, considering that the mission of the magazine is to print "celebrity news," their hacks go out their way to photograph/interview/deride (the clock stopping at 14.59 is ever a precarious situation) some more, which means more undeserved exposure... and so on.
Another criteria of the worthless celebrity is regular participation in celebrity specials of reality TV programmes - or even the standard, oick-themed editions of same. The particularly faeculent speciments, the crowning turds in the open sewer that is modern reality TV programming, will be involved in both such editions, as recently Jade Goody, a person described most accurately by Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson on the episode of the aforementioned show broadcast on January 28, 2007 as a "racist pig-faced waste of blood and organs," was involved in the most recent series of Celebrity Big Brother whilst being mostly famous for having been publicly exposed as an utter ignoramus on the standard edition of same in 2002. In fact, the rise of the reality TV model has coincided with a similar increase in pointless pseudo-celebrity wastrels.
The third and final hallmark of these individuals is a propensity towards vulgar displays of wealth. While this is not exclusive to the pretend celebrity - certain more worthy famous types are known to engage in this as well - no self-respecting media whore would pass up the opportunity to indulge themselves while they were still on the gravy train as the clock is ever ticking and in as little as eighteen months they may be forgotten. Ask anyone in Britain now in 2007 who Jentina or Chantelle Houghton is and chances are they won't know. Thus spending money and vigorously maxing out one's credit cards is the way to ensure that one stays in the gutter press.
B - ...Made Flesh
But the question still remains, who exactly are these people? Well, as we shall see, they come in three flavours. These will not be examined in turn, along with an example or two of each to help better illustrate things.
Firstly, we have the ones who are total media creations, utterly merit-free and deserving of nothing but obscurity. Yet, by dint of sheer, blind luck and a proclivity for attention seeking, they are thrust up on pedestals for us plebeians to grovel before. The apotheosis of these wastrels is, of course, Paris Hilton. Born to an ultra-wealthy family some time in the early 1980s, she spent most of her life flitting between exclusive suites in the upscale hotels owned by her family in major world cities. Left to her own devices, she would undoubtedly have been just another spoilt rich brat. Unfortunately, after a three-minute long night-vision sex tape of little to no merit (both artistic and erotic) surfaced in 2003, she was shot into the limelight and public knowledge. Coincidentally (deliberately?) it coincided with the surfacing of her serial The Simple Life in which she and her pink H2 Hummer went and did "normal" jobs in a "normal" town for a stint. Needless to say, the serial was rubbish and condescending, consisting as it did of two stupid spoilt brats inwardly giggling at the expense of people who weren't born with multiple silver spoons in their mouth. I had the misfortune to see some of this trash and was aghast that its two protagonists were not simply beaten and righteously thrown to hungry monitor lizards. Her antics since then have included pulling crowds for a crap horror film remake simply by having her character die brutally, recording a truly gangrenous pop album (well, she sang at a mike and expensive producers made her sound palatable), and parading herself round the planet like the shallow, pathetic strumpet that she is. There is nothing she has done that's worthy of note (well, nothing she's done off her own back), yet she is still deemed worthy of fame, rather than the aforementioned beating and feeding to hungry monitor lizards mentioned above (not that there's much meat on such a vulgar, xylophone-ribbed cretin.)
Then we have the individuals who once were worth a tin shit but alas, have since regressed to the point at which they would attend the opening of a letter just to try and regain some sort of kudos. Amongst these we have firstly Ozzy Osbourne, former frontman of proto-metal band Black Sabbath, who is now more known for swearing a lot, having a horrid family, and starring in a programme about himself and said family, which is about as entertaining as being beaten and thrown to hungry monitor lizards oneself. But most of all, we have Pete Doherty. A man who shot to a modicum of popularity by generating dull, derivative Britpop imitation music, then shot to international superstardom by sniffing cocaine, jacking smack and whining about how he was condemned for it all. Not to mention brawling with journalists, repeatedly not turning up to gigs he was scheduled to play at due to being too coked/scagged up, and spraying a syringe full of his own blood in someone's face in 2006. The man is, in short, a complete and utter cretin and, should he be found dead on a toilet with a needle sticking out his forearm, I will be amongst the first to say, "I told you so." What is most reprehensible about Doherty, though, is the way that whereas anyone else would be universally panned in the very same gutter press and hacky music mags that propelled him to fame in the first place, he is treated as a "troubled rocker" and let off lightly because he penned a few way overrated songs, despite it was himself and nobody else that decided to get himself on the nose candy. I would set the hungry monitor lizards on him, but his bloodstream is probably so irreparably full of dreck and sludge that the poor things might, well, cark it.
Then we have the third category, which situates itself, in a way, between the first two categories, and consists of people who are famous for having married already famous people, be they famous off their own graft or just famous for being famous. To me, this form of fame is without a shadow of a doubt the least deserving, for the resultant media exposure and pictures in Hello and OK! that comes with it; it also bears unfavourable comparison to the practice of obtaining an MRS degree. Usually these are wives of footballers; the endless WAGS of the 2006 World Cup campaign. A good way to gauge the attention whoring that the future spouse will engage in is to look at the overblownness of the wedding. David and Victoria Beckham are a prime example of this, with the whole thrones nonsense, and despite not having done anything even vaguely worthwhile - a string of mediocre quality, mediocre selling pop albums - since, Victoria Beckham is still about in the pages of the above-mentioned overpriced bog paper for looking like a witch's ride home and as a so-called "style icon," despite the fact that nobody listens to the Spice Girls any more and if you asked most people what she's famous for, "being David Beckham's wife" would probably come up more often than not.
As an aside, I have a low opinion of David Beckham as well, but to be fair, he does have talent as a footballer, and reportedly trained at it like a bastard in his early days, so he is excepted.
So there we have it then. Now we know these wastes of food, we must move on to their effects on society as a whole, and the thorough crapulence that this entails.
II - The Low-Cultural Stench that Clings To It
Already you may be thinking that I'm only writing this rant out of jealousy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm happy for people who are successful. I applaud them for having made something of themselves. However, undeserved fame - such as that possessed by the specimens in part (I)(B) above, is something entirely different, and which has effects just as sour-tasting as the fame in itself. These effects will be treated here under sub-heading (A), and under sub-heading (B) we'll examine the downward spiral that the cult of celebrity has taken as a whole.
A - The Choir of the Damned
Damned, that is, to being shallow, materialistic imbeciles.
I am a university student. And as such, I hang about with, and associate with other such university students. Yet whenever I am in the UK (so this was all the time during the last two years of study) I was unable to make the short walk from seat to bar or thunder box without some shitbagging, no-hope, brain-melting conversation about the latest brand that the pointless, no-account socialte du jour was sporting and its relative merits and drawbacks. These individuals would happily rabbit on for hours about such an infinite deal of nothing, yet attempt to direct the conversation to something interesting or pertinent or intelligent that might affect them and one will be met with a 21-gun salute or rolling eyes and adenoidal pleadings of how said topic is "boring" or how they're really not interested. This is but one example of the deleterious effects of instant fame and the culture of celebrity; it is marketed highly aggressively, and is easily digestible, much like fast food. Yet it has, if taken to excess, the same effect on the mind as fast food has on the waistline. As it is so easily digestible and requires little to no intellectual effort on the part of the reader, nor does it require or inspire any action on the part of same, it becomes preferable for that individual to read - and thus go out their way to buy - such tosh because it's the easier path. Thus they continue to fund the lucrative market for flash in the pan starlets to feed the habit that they themselves have created.
The same applies to reality TV, which is little more, nowadays, than recruitment for the bods in charge of this whole prolefeed operation. On top of all that, by aggressively cross-marketing the two, and adding lashings of allegedly "cool" people - the same vapid pseudo-celebrities, incidentally, that the reality TV/trash mag/gutter press mob push - it fosters the illusion that it's "hip" and "in" to be a mindless drone. Possibly the biggest indictment of this school of thought (well, not really a school, so much as a crèche, actually, its inhabitants are infantile enough) was when everyone's favourite Murdoch puppet Julie Burchill made a programme praising reality TV and worthless celebrities over, notably, mountaineers. Needless to say, whatever non-prescription medication inspired her to look up to Davina McCall and the knuckle-draggers who end up wanking pigs and eating bugs on prime time television rather than people who are living testaments to human endurance and the get up and go which was, for millennia, the driving force of human progress, I want some. Apologists for all the most venal and petty aspects of human nature and for stultifying, low-grade tosh are just as much a part of the problem as Paris Hilton and Jordan and Ant and Dec and I have the solution right here in the Komodo Dragon enclosure.
B - The Living Dead
Now for the effect of all this on people as a whole. Now, in November 2006, I got dragged into Facebook. Yes, that Facebook. Now, on Facebook, there is a group called "I HEART LOW CULTURE GLOBAL," and this group is exemplary of just the sort of dumbed down rubbish that this rant is all about. Pointless celebrities are the focus of this group; overpaid, undertalented meat to be wasted that hundreds of people (mainly students, but what do you expect?) quite happily fellate continually, and in their defence, claim that their love for "low culture" is because it's "inclusive" and in no way elitist. All very well and good, right?
It most certainly is inclusive... in the same way that black plague was inclusive in 1349. There's no escaping it. You cannot bat an eyelid without running into some pointless, famous-for-being-famous wastrel and their mug in some form of print or another. It's all round us, and only growing. Any attempt to try and open their minds or to get them interested in anything that might have something to do with them was dismissed with the same "wat-EVER!" tone of voice that the stereotypical Valley Girl might use. Now, if someone dismisses things of note or interest in such a mindless way, you might quite rightly think them stupid, or intentionally ignorant, but currently, as I have mentioned, this is instead seen as the right response.
And I am sick of it all.
Whether it's the Big Brother idiots with their attention-whoring and boorishness, the WAGS with their designer sneering and superficiality, the low-grade-wank-fuel lad mags with their promises of various starlets wearing slightly less clothing than last issue (a far too appropriate word, really), or the gutter press with their, shall we say, unique idea of journalistic integrity ("Make it fast, make it first, but if all else fails, make it up" - Kelvin Mackenzie, former editor of The Sun) it's all rooted in the same cause - a media-created market for vapid tosh about people of whom nobody, by rights, should care, who have done nothing of note, yet still end up as some form of role model or celebrity. I despise these so-called "celebrities" and everything they stand for, and wish them all a violent demise at the hands of one or more ravenous varanidae before I become so surrounded by obsessive, Heat-reading dullards that I end up going on a murderous rampage through Fleet Street.
What can we do? Well, we can start by not buying into any of it. Don't watch reality TV, don't buy low-culture rags, don't read The Sun; this would be a good start even if it's practically impossibly due to the ubiquity of celebrity-inspired drivel. But better still, do better than them. Start up a band. Write a novel. Invent something. Set up your own business. Maybe even go into politics. Anything, as long as you do it off your own back and profit from your own efforts, you achieve will be worth more in terms of your contribution to society than the throwaway shite generated by the inhabitants of Heat magazine.
Finally, it says something when teenage girls quite happily regard "instant fame" or "marrying a footballer" as a career.