Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gossip Girl

In our household we pride ourselves as intellectuals bordering on full-out geekdom. Our bookshelves are filled with well thumbed novels from a variety of genres; everything from history to mystery providing hours of entertainment and mind expansion. The ginormous television in our living room is primarily tuned into the History Channel and the Discovery Network. Playing Trivial Pursuit is a favorite evening pastime and it drives us both crazy that our Scrabble skills are not superior to many of our friends who beat US Weekly. The Best Week Ever would certainly include hours of reading, a trip to a museum, an American History marathon on TV, and a trip to our favorite watering hole to play NTN trivia. Our focus on gaining knowledge and desire to learn as much as we can about the world around us are traits we share with many of our friends who are truly Extra-ordinary; incredibly well-read, well-traveled, and educated. Sharing our lives with such intelligent People is inspirational, and drives my personal desire to continue growing intellectually and emotionally. Relationships with some of the best minds around do come with a certain set of challenges; fear of inadequacy, humbling conversations, and moments of topic confusion. My ego learned to deal with not being the smartest or most knowledgeable person in the room, but the confession I am about to make has me questioning whether I am as smart as my friends, or just a source of their Entertainment Tonight.

My ambivalence to the output of Hollywood is not a secret to those who know and love me. During the course of a year I might make it to the movies once or twice. Most nights of the week the television is off or tuned to programs geared towards both entertainment and personal enrichment; Good Eats, Modern Marvels, and Mythbusters fill our DVR queue. Turning my back on conventional entertainment like Blockbuster movies and sitcoms makes confessing to my love of trashy entertainment shows and publications much more embarrassing to admit. Stopping short of actually subscribing to the trashy and expensive tabloids that make paparazzi rich, I limit reading gossip to online sources and doctors’ offices. The only time I actually spend money to learn what Hollywood’s heartthrobs are up to is if I need a mindless read on an airplane. Even then I am known to hide the People magazine inside the cover of the in-flight magazine so those around don’t judge me by the crap I’m reading. There, I said it. I admitted it. I love celebrity gossip, but why does someone who couldn’t care less about entertainment have any interest in the entertainers?

My understanding of high fashion is so out of step with trends that my clothing purchases focus on the classics; those people who never seem let me down: Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Ann Taylor. Even sticking to a few select designers, with more loyalty then a Labrador Retriever I expertly study the clothing of models and actresses as if I’m suddenly going to inherit millions of dollars and switch my wardrobe to Dolce & Gabbana. The Oscar pre-show on E! is celebrated like a national holiday even though I rarely see even one movie nominated for the Academy Awards. As I screech with laughter at each fashion victim, there are no fewer then a dozen phone calls to my mother to discuss what they are wearing, not who is winning. I love a good fashion disaster!

While the breakout of baby rabies, loosely translated as an obsession with having or raising babies, in Hollywood is nothing short of obnoxious, there is something inherently satisfying about watching female celebrities get fat. The only thing more satisfying then watching these size zeros blossom into women with curves is when they discover motherhood is not all Prada, Prams, and Playdates. Does anyone feel sorry for a moment that Angelina is overwhelmed with her 6 children? Even with nurseries filled to the brim with eco-friendly baby bottles, 1000 thread count crib bedding, and an expert staff of nannies and personal trainers we read of celebrity struggles with sleep, weight, child behavior, wandering husbands, and varicose veins. Look how well Brittany handled motherhood. Even more pleasurable than reading about starlets realizing motherhood is a hard job is reading about the beauty, happiness, and success of professed childfree actors and actresses like George Clooney, Dame Judi Dench, Kim Cattrall, Rachael Ray, Bill Maher, Kathy Griffin, and Oprah Winfrey. These stars stand by their childfree convictions despite the negative impact it could have with the media and its obsession with baby bumps. Bravo!

Perhaps my love of all things gossip is just a bit of Schadenfreude, the German term made famous in the Broadway musical Avenue Q (see, I am cultured, I go to musicals!) . Schadenfreude is translated as happiness at the misfortune of others. These stars who seemingly have it all with their looks, money, and fame have their own set of issues too; adultery, depression, divorce, health woes, break-ups, and breakdowns. I cannot be the only geek in the world that gleans a little pleasure from the fact that even the most beautiful people in the world lead less than perfect lives. For a reminder that we’re all a little bit dysfunctional, nothing beats a good celebrity train wreck.

I might not know why half the people in celebrity news these days are even famous, but that doesn’t diminish the way I devour this trash. A ravenous appetite for celebrity news and gossip might not be the most intelligent material to ingest, but ultimately it’s probably OK! to have this mindless diversion to my everyday stresses.


Anonymous said...

I like to read Perez Hilton online. That's my source of trashy news that I usually forget two seconds after I close the web page. I don't feel guilty about it. Nor do I feel guilty for absolutely loving America's Next Top Model marathons on VH-1. My husband is convinced my brain will rot and fall out! LOL! I sometimes agree with him, but I just love seeing the end result of the photo shoots more so than the stupid drama that goes on behind the scenes.

I figure it's a harmless diversion and leave it at that. Especially when you realize that when asked what their hobbies were, most of the young actors from High School Musical said they like to sit around the house and hang out. I heard this from a PhD student who was flabbergasted that these were the same people whom young children were looking up to! Now that's frightening!

So for you to read a bit of People and OK! magazine and for me to waste a couple of hours seeing who's still in the running towards becoming America's Next Top Model is relatively benign when compared to the hoards of idiots out there. So just enjoy it! ;)

Nursedude said...

There is VERY little that Hollywood's big studios put out that I have liked in the last several years. Most of the movies I have really liked have been documentaries like Murderball, Supersize Me, or Michael Moore Hates America. I really have liked some of the indie movies like Juno...but Hollywood? Not so much. What is even more galling to me, is that not only are these shmucks not producing good work, then hey have the unmitigated gall to tell me how I should vote.

LucyinStLou said...

I think that celebrity news is now such a part of mainstream news that there's virutually no way to avoid getting a little caught up in it now and again. I once read a prominent sociologist say that our brains are hardwired to believe that if we know someone, they know us back. Therefore people (subconciously) believe that Brangelina and TomKat are like their very interesting friends and neighbors and worth paying attention to. Seems reasonable.

Claire said...

I'm often stunned when I see the latest Hilton or Lohan news on CNN's main page, but I suppose that's just the way it is now.

I'll admit it - I read People, & I glance at other magazines in line at the grocery store. But not The National Enquirer...a girl's got to have standards!