We're living in absurd times, where magazine covers and gossip columns are devoted to covering details about "stars" like Jon & Kate and "Speidi." Salon's Heather Havrilesky calls this "The Triumph Of The Uncelebrity." I call it tragic.
Havrilesky writes of the aforementioned personalities, "even the most ambivalent uncelebrity still seems unable to resist feeding themselves into the treacherous and soul-crushing gears of the new uncelebrity branding machine."
People love characters. The popularity of reality television has brought us all kinds, from "real" "housewives" to young ladies from the Hills. Andy Warhol once said, "Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes," and while it may be true, it's not necessarily a good thing. The fame-seekers, narcisissists and megalomaniacs in the spotlight "entertain" us, but never for very long. And, as Raina Kelley writes for Newsweek, "reality TV hates women." While we would never stand for a network drama or sitcom in which women are, in Kelley's words, "weak, shallow, vain, stupid, gold-digging, desperate delusional bitches," that's pretty much the standard casting requirement for reality shows like Bridezillas or Real Housewives.
Kelley says shows in which the women are horrible, bratty, dumb or catty have a motive, but it fails:
I think these shows are trying to raise our self-esteem, but simply showing us women who are crazy is a quick fix. It's like eating candy bar when you're exhausted. It raises your blood sugar, but in the long run, it just makes things worse. I want the kind of self-esteem that comes from my abilities and potential, not from other folks' shortcomings.
And Havrilesky asks an excellent question: "Where are the real celebrities in all of this?" (She answers her own query by noting that exhaustive magazine coverage has made us weary of A-listers like Jennifer Aniston and Lindsay Lohan: "celebrities got pretty boring, once we got to know them a little better.") Havrilesky continues:
The paid professionals who polish celebrity images to a high gloss while spackling over every unusual or unrelatable quirk that might limit a star's ability to move the maximum volume of product off the shelves have effectively retouched themselves out of a job. Because, as it turns out, seconds after celebrities began inviting us into their recently redesigned kitchens, we no longer cared. We were warmly welcomed into Tom Cruise's Colorado ranch house and shown framed photos and leather couches and Suri's little playhouse under the stairs, and we understood it all to be exactly as interesting and authentic as a meticulously constructed movie set. As far as we could tell, celebrities spent all of their time doing the same thing: shopping at Barney's while talking to their managers on their cellphones, then dashing home to bleach their teeth. These days, the headlines may try to make stars look more ordinary, and therefore vaguely interesting ("Brad Pitt Keeps Fresh With Baby Wipes, Reveals Costar"), but we know better.
But just thinking about the word "star" — a heavenly body out of this world, untouchable — makes me nostalgic for a time I maybe never knew, when people were famous for their talents; when a certain mystery enveloped an actress or singer, when we weren't privy to unsolicited uterus updates, didn't know about baby wipe habits, and no one from a reality show claimed to be "too famous" to do a different reality show.