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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.


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Michele over @ 'a small victory' has a great post right now on the subject of the veritable voyeur attitude [Read More]


Our society as a whole isn't a problem. Segments however like the Larry King's , Jerry Springer's and their followers are oddities. The core of america is still solid.
Our media focuses on the oddities rather than the 100's on millions of normal people because lets face it they make better copy.

I beg to differ Starhawk, it's the core of America that makes the Larry Kings and Springers so popular.

They watch it, read it, eat it up. Look at the numbers on how many people watch this crap and then think about it. Those of us who don't buy into it truly are the minority. It's sad but true.

Dude, she was wearing a see-thru dress. Of course people want trial footage. If I had a TV, I'd be watching too.

But TV is evil, so I don't have one.

i think half the people want to see the little biddy get hers. They want to think her mommy doesn't love her and she has a screwed up, miserable life. They want to see her stripped of her priviledge. It always amazes me how many people wish ill on someone because they are jealous.

The other half are there for the see thru dress.

As for Mark Klaas, I understand the connection as she helped in the search for his daughter. What is weird to me is they look that far down the chain to get someone to comment on it. I hope if I ever nuts and shoot up my little town they can find someone better to talk to than the elmentary school music teacher we tortured in the sixth grade.

Apologies for the shameless plug. I wrote an essay awhile back on why the hell we care what celebrities do with their lives. Has to do with, of all things, the movie closeup:

(Cult of Personality)

Shameless plugs always welcome!

In the shameless pllugs category -- The fascination with Winona has reached ridiculous heights.

Better still, when two kids got murdered over in Britain, we were mugged by teary parents on morning TV and, all in the name of human fellowship, had to endure the funeral being shown on one of our four NATIONAL TV STATIONS. And, lo, manipulation of sentimentalism comes to the aid of dwindling ratings...

Sad thing is, as previous commenters have already stated, the power of the people is still believed to reside in the thoughts of the dumb majority, as opposed to the informed minority, and therefore, as long as enough idiots want this sort of disturbing exploitation masquerading as sentiment on our screens, it's gonna carry on appearing.

Because, lets face it, there's always enough shallow folks lusting for recognition to prostitute themselves, their families, and even their dead children for the shallow reward of fame.

These people smother us from the TV screens, then the public uses their newly-inflated egos to justify its own existence, hypothesising that this trait in a celebrity somehow confirms their own 'homespun, ordinary wisdom', or common-sense. Is it the duty of the failures amongst us to glean self-congratulatory solace from the imperfections of others who have achieved some modicum of success in their field?

And, of course, 'our' media plays to that bitterness too. Winona Ryder's trial will be no doubt be milked by a smug cavalcade of bitter sideshow freaks for plenty of airtime in months to come. Count yourself lucky to be American. Here in Britain, we're defending champions in developing smug, bitter, hypocritical relationships with our celebs.

I think that it's one part watching a trainwreck and being glad that it isn't you; One part self-satisfaction at seeing someone rich and famous (and therefore in our society, someone who is in some way thought to be "better")being degraded; and about 5 parts media coverage.

Honestly, after the snipers were caught, the first thing I thought was "What is CNN going to find to take up the air-time?" Winona fills the void for about another five minutes.