cult of personality
cult of personality
I do not understand America's fixation with The Sad Adventures of Winona Ryder.
Flipping through the channels last night, I flashed by CNN and saw Winona's face plastered on the screen. Cut to Larry King, who for some reason felt the need to delve into this situation deeper than anyone has gone before. Of course. Sitting next to Larry was Mark Klaas.
I did a double take. What was Mark Klaas, father of Polly Klaas (12 year old abducted and murdered in 1993) doing on Larry King, talking about a celebrity shoplifter? Apparently Klaas is friendly with the Ryder family and King was asking him whether or not Winona's parents had stood by her during this, and why wasn't her mother there when they announced the verdict?
What the hell is going on here? Who cares? Is America so obsessed with celebrity that Ryder's mother being present at the trial is even an issue? I don't understand the high news factor on this subject, anyhow.
Maybe I'm jaded. I spend my days going through files of shoplifters, drunk drivers, wife beaters and credit card deadbeats. It gives me the creeps sometimes to look through the files. I feel like a voyeur. I feel like whatever troubles this person is having, it is none of my business. When they walk past my office in their orange jumpsuits and handcuffs, I avert my eyes, not because I don't want to look at a criminal, but because I assume the person does not want me looking at them.
America is on a constant search for newer, better, more controversial celebrities. There is an unquenched thirst for knowledge about their wardrobe, their bedroom escapades, their sordid past. I may not read People Magazine or The Star, but plenty of other people do. They drink up the fashion photos and gossip as if it were real knowledge. And when one of the celebrities who previously graced the covers of a magazine for his or her personal achievements makes the cover for less stellar activities, the public eats it up like candy.
We tend to glamorize celebrity criminal behavior (see, O.J.) and romanticize tragedy (see, Lisa Beamer). We make stars out of thugs (see, Eminem) and when any little tidbit about those stars is made public, it is devoured, chewed up and spit out on every talk show in existence. In the blink that occurs when a person moves from small town guy to instant celebrity because of criminal behavior or tragedy or the witnessing of either, doors are opened, vaults are emptied and tomorrow's papers are flush with interviews with his fourth grade teacher, his next door neighbor, his paper delivery boy. By the time the day is over, you know how often he goes to the bathroom. By the time his celebrity status wanes, he has published a biography and hugged Oprah.
It's even worse for the celebrity who goes from famous to infamous. Suddenly, that cherubic, sweet girl everyone idolized is demonized. Her past, which until now has only revealed sweetness and charm, is scrutinized and analyzed. The search is on for at least one childhood friend who will say the celebrity was a bitch on wheels; at least one disgruntled co-worker who will reveal all about the hissy fits in the dressing room.
Why is crime and tragedy so appealing? How does a bereaved widow end up on a 40 stop book tour? Why does anyone want to read Kurt Cobain's diaries? Why do we take other people's tragedies as our own as if we haven't suffered any ourselves?
I don't get parents who travel the talk show circuit after their child has been murdered. I don't get people who sit back and rack up the dollars, charging for interviews after they survive a plane crash. I don't get celebrities who need to reveal every childhood trauma in a book or mini-series or major motion picture.
Tragedy and crime are not romantic, they are not glorious. To sit and watch someone's life come apart, to see a person taken away in handcuffs, to see a well-known man break down in tears as he talks about his childhood, to peek into the lives of victims and perpetrators all for the benefit of cash, makes my skin crawl. That people like Larry King make a very rich living off of exploiting the sometime sad, sometimes tragic lives of the ordinary as well as the famous says a lot about where our society has gone.