Get Real

Another Rant by Rose Mouton.

Illustration by Getliffe

 

Let's face it, the concept of 'celebrity' is now a vital organ of our cultural anatomy - celebrity artists, celebrity musicians, celebrity chefs, celebrity dancers, celebrity footballers etc etc. To be truly accomplished in your artistic field it seems you need to have been sprinkled in the 'celebrity' fairy dust - that's apparantly when you've really smashed it.  And it seems we can't get enough of 'em.. there are millions of them - a gigantic index! Every time we pick up the paper we will no doubt learn about what A-Z list people did the night before last. In our everyday lives celebrity gossip will also frequently rattle around our ears: in our jobs, in our bars, in our streets, hell even on our Facebook status updates - yes a very respected, highly intelligent friend of mine, let's say her name is 'Carrie Carter', updated her status to read 'Lovin' Cheryl Cole's dresses' - mmmmhmmmm, whatever Caz.  We are so suckered in by fame and the people that it embellishes that a whole new market has been invented to cater for society's obsession.  We now buy magazines and watch TV programmes about made up celebrities, people who are merely famous for being famous - step down reality TV stars.

This Z-list breed has expanded wildly! This phenomenon manifested itself namely with TV series like Big Brother, the annual snooze-fest (literally, if you ever felt possessed to watch late night live updates where contestants are all asleep) which has looked terminally unrefined for a while now. If people had wanted to watch fully matured humans dressing up and doing silly things, there was always Rainbow - What was the purpose of the show in the first place? Something clever? A social psychology experiment, some may say. As a Social Psychology graduate, I was under the impression that this should consist of participants whose behavior we can generalize to the whole of society, should it not? A bunch of gormless petty 'eccentrics' sitting around in a house year after year surely doesn't provide us with a fair insight. Well I hope not anyway! Maybe the sad irony is the fact that we learn more about our society through programmes like Big Brother from outside the house, rather than inside, from the millions of Englanders who obsessively watch and vote. Watching the world devour show after show begs the questions: Can we not find more stimulating pastimes? Have we not progressed past the days of jeering at the circus freak show? Have we not got enough going on in our own lives or in the world to be bothered about people we don't know having it off with each other or bickering about mundane issues? Are we so dumbed down by our consumerist, image-obsessed surroundings that this has become entertainment'? Big Brother has finally come to an end for good, with Channel Four blaming poorer viewing than previous years but don't rejoice just yet - this by no means indicates the end of reality TV. Phone voting is thriving, even despite the recent rip-off scandals and reality TV is more alive than ever. So why did TV and the media allow this to happen?

PR Dream?

Reality TV reared its head at the beginning of the 21st century with shows like Castaway, Big Brother - admittedly more sophisticated back then. Big Brother became Celebrity Big Brother, I'm a Celebrity Get Me out of Here arrived, Celebrity Love Island, Pop Idol, Strictly Come Dancing, Celebrity Strictly Come Dancing.  One hit wonders were dusting themselves off and leaping back into the limelight, relatives of famous people were becoming famous themselves by 'winning the nation's hearts' and so it was seemingly an extremely efficient spring board to fame and fortune and media domination - Surely a dream come true for PR companies, tabloid and glossies. Suddenly there were millions of celebrities plastered all over the press for us normal folk to aspire to. And we did - we wanted to dress like them, we wanted to eat like them, we wanted to holiday like them, we wanted lip-gloss just like them. The fact that a lot of these people are ordinary folk, just like your neighbor, makes it all or the more plausible. It was an impossible dream for most of us but we keep channeling our aspirations through TV, magazines and papers and are in turn, kept reaching pointlessly for the stars.

Surely a time and a place?

After 9/11, people expected the celebrity machine to grind to a halt - surely there was something seriously wrong in the world? We couldn't really be filling our brains with such frivolity right now. But they were wrong - the machine was about to turn into a factory.  Thomas de Zegottia, of Harpers magazine wrote in 2002 with regards to post 9/11 celebrity craziness 'The spotlight never wavered.  It went on shining'.

During the past seven years whilst 2 million Iraqis have been murdered in an illegal war, whilst our public services have been handed over to private companies who have made them virtually unaffordable for those on the average wage, whilst our government has given billions of our money to banks, whilst our world sinks so we can burn oil, whilst corporate welfare above the state has raged the majority of us have sat and quite happily watched TV. Instead of taking action we have enjoyed washed-up footballers' daughters prancing about on a desert islands,  some one we never knew existed before eating stick insects, idiots warbling karaoke sentimentally - er, so why are we no longer demanding our rights, Poll Tax Riot and battle of the bean field stylee?

Why are TV producers peddling out juvenile celebrity-orientated bollocks 24/7 whilst our world has been ripped to shreds economically, environmentally, humanitarianly?  Are we spoon fed junk by the media to stop us thinking about all the dirty political scandals?

A distraction?

 

Reality TV protegee and heiress Paris Hilton turned herself into a police station in June 2007.  The media all over the world was beating their chests with their hands. What's next for Paris? What does Nicole have to say about it? Will she finally stop her reckless ways? How will she cope?! In the same week a consensus of studies reported that climate change was is a much closer reality than we thought earlier - icecaps are melting twice as fast and ocean waters are rising three times as fast than initially predicted. Similarly, Censored 2009 also reported that in 2007, sixteen-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears (Brit's sis) was impregnated in 2007 by her boyfriend who she met at church. News reported this all over the world, making front-page headlines. In the same week a veteran CIA Officer stated that he witnessed a 'prostitution of his profession' as the Bush administration lied about information the CIA's intelligence reports contained with regards to weapons of mass destruction? "Don't let anyone tell you the president was deceived by false intelligence¦ they knew", he openly stated.  What do you remember hearing about more at the time?  A hugely viable source revealing the true scope of the Bush administration's impeachment or a teenage pregnancy?

A BBC study reluctantly concluded that 'the programme [Big Brother] was, on the face of it, slightly more popular than the general election among young voters, but not the general population. This may sound vaguely reassuring but with our future generation having more time for the box than the decay of our planet and humanity Rosey M says it's time to switch of reality TV n get back to reality.

Censored 2009 – seven Stories press, Peter Phillips and Andrew Roth, Project Censored.
Celebrity/Culture, Ellis Cashmore, Routledge, 2006

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4586995.stm

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