The United States’ sensational culture stars begin as on-demand features.
Popular culture. It used to mean “Total Request Live,” Michael Jackson and Nickelodeon. It was all very Seventeen magazine. Fast-forward a decade and the country now finds entertainment in Charlie Sheen, “Jackass” and Rebecca Black.
The phrase, “the dumbing down of America,” is often thrown around by bitter late-night commentators, but I think it goes beyond that. It’s not Americans that are necessarily the issue – it’s what they choose to sensationalize.
Octomom is the best example. She was a woman who saw the attention women with a large amount of children were receiving – such as Angelina Jolie and women from the popular TLC shows “19 Kids and Counting” and “John & Kate Plus 8” (now just “Kate Plus 8”) – and wanted the fame for herself. Octomom, Nadya Suleman, was artificially inseminated with eight zygotes. She did her first interview, and America ran with it. The cover of People magazine and a “20\20” exposé were just the beginning, and Suleman eventually gained a segment on Oprah. Even when she was being harshly criticized, Octomom was still gaining attention.
“It is almost as if when you are so bad, you instantly become good,” said Tania Neptune, a sophomore liberal arts major.
That type of math is what all the Charlie Sheens and Octomoms bank on. It worked for Tom Cruise.
However, while celebrities are vying for new ways to make more money via crazy acts, Americans are either forced to sit back and watch as tailspins go out of control or ignore the headlines and grit their teeth.
The media will respond to the latter, which in turn means if you want a tailspin, shows, advertisements and music will follow suit. The media works like a business, and it functions best under supply and demand.
“I am probably most disappointed in ‘Celebrity Rehab,” said junior business major Phallen DePante. “It’s like [watching] this caged animal struggle to get out of its cage.”
VH1’s reality show “Celebrity Rehab,” now on it’s fourth season, is just one of the shows that was born when people responded to what was in the news at the time. “Celebrity Rehab” was created around the time former Disney star Lindsay Lohan had her first run-in with the law. The basis of the show is to watch the process or withdrawal of former celebrities get sober or clean, all hosted by celebrity addiction medicine specialist Dr. Drew.
The same mentality that caused me to gently place my foot on the break and look at the passenger’s side window as I pass a cop car on the side of the highway, is what increases ratings, sells magazines and adds zeros to celebrity paychecks.
I am not claiming to be above flipping through a junk magazine at the supermarket or pausing for an extra minute on E! while going through the channels, but I am a little nervous.
As long as the definition of celebrity continues to become broader and broader, anyone and anything has a chance to receive 15 minutes of fame. There is even a good chance the rest of America will watch you. In another 10 years, I do not hope for that to be the case.
Jillian Weir-Reeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.