Friday, February 23, 2007

Celebritarianism and “Saving Britney”


By Nicholas Allanach


This week’s “talk of the town”, per-se, wasn’t inspired by any frustrations over the deplorable situation unfolding on our world stage, nor was it on any hopeful ruminations on pragmatic ways to achieve social justice. Instead the chatter around the water coolers and on the cover of The Post was wasteful and reductive. Admittedly, why take any time concerning ourselves with such downers as the genocide in Darfur, fiasco in Iraq, or impending “Strangelove” scenarios with Iran when there are so many convenient uppers to consume instead? Depressing subjects are difficult to digest. We like our discussions to go down smooth like Coca-Cola; after all, there’s no easy solution to the problems of war and environmental destruction; subsequently, it’s easy to avoid that which makes us feel powerless.

Thankfully, I don’t read celebrity magazines (save that wasteful habit for lonely women). Unfortunately, even though I choose to opt-out of this irritating barrage of useless information, I’m still inundated with it daily from various media conglomerates who vie for my valuable time with their incessant chatter. Thus, this week I had the misfortune of watching Anna Nicole Smith’s white trash mom weeping on CNN over the fate of an ex-Playboy bunny’s dead body and Britney Spears “wigging out” after shaving her head (apparently from too much partying).

I’m not bothered by these pointless spectacles –I don’t care. What then compels me to draft this screed? Well, despite my reluctance to give these events any more power than they already have, I’m intrigued by the media’s reaction to such insignificant (artificially made significant) phenomena. Of course there is nothing new happening here, watching others freak-out is a social train-wreck tapping into an almost primal and archaic nostalgia for more-extreme moments of human experience. We desire intensity, yet modern life’s clockwork routine often prevents us from having such extraordinary experiences for ourselves; thus, we’re reduced to vicariously have these dreamed experiences through an Other (hence all those lonely women watching Extra or reading People). What troubles me is the desire to feel concern for such things that play no real role in our own lives while we subsequently refute and reject ever experiencing such actions for ourselves. A reluctance to take part in (or even admit to having) such experiences (i.e. drug use, freaking-out, or even shaving our heads) is primarily attributed to the curse of human existence –guilt.

Another celebrity, Marilyn Manson, has ironically utilized America’s obsession with celebrity culture by coining a phrase and artistic movement called “Celebritarianism”. Marilyn Manson (as his satiric name implies) is keenly aware of America’s fixation on celebrity culture, which he attributes to guilt that is inspired by our need to vicariously experience –voyeuristically—sex, drugs, and even death through those we place on a pedestal above us. Of course those on the pedestal will –as the Celebritarian movement’s founding credo claims— gladly “sell [their] shadow to those who stand within it.” Thus, Celebritarianism is an almost romanticized commentary on giving people what they feel guilty about wanting.

Seeing Britney go crazy, watching Anna Nicole be a gold-digger, and O.J. getting away with murder (lest we forget) are all packaged spectacles for those unable to admit they harbor such feelings themselves. Thus the guilty must vicariously experience their dreams through the media machine. Call this behavior pathetic, if you will, I know I do. Why feel guilty about it? Of course what is more pathetic is that those concerning themselves with “Saving Britney” (to say nothing of saving those who truly need it, such as the poor, abused, and subjegated peoples of the world) is that these ignorant fools are unable to save themselves. It may be redundant to explain my usage of the term “saving” as not refering to the Christian notion of becoming “born again”, but I think I must -just in case. No, instead, “saving onself” should occur through a willful process of breaking free from these shackles of guilt, accepting we’re all “dirty, dirty rock stars”, to ultimately become the true objects of our dreams and desires.