I opened my Yahoo front page today to find these as the top 3 stories from Reuters:
Iraq war forces Gates to pick new top officer, Weeping Paris Hilton ordered back to jail, G8 trumpets Africa Aid deal as summit ends, Immigration Reform advocates vow comeback, Bush signals missile shield to go ahead, Secret CIA jail hosted by Poland, Romania, Fierce Fighting rocks Palestinian camp in Lebanon, Legal scholars urge "Scooter" stay free on appeal, Vitamin D cuts cancer risk, Israel offering Golan, awaits Syria proposals, CIA Agents go on trial, Spain arrests Syrian man for selling arms to FARC. Hmm, which of these is not like the others?
I have been increasingly annoyed lately by the fact that it is simply impossible NOT to know what is happening with Paris Hilton and her cohort, even when reading fairly credible news sources. In the same way that I'd like to go through the checkout stand at the supermarket without seeing candy, I'd like to be able to access my news free of updates about the latest celeb rehab/outfit/romantic interest/etc.
Normally I'm somewhat safe if I only read the New York Times. But, I just checked their web site, and there is Paris Hilton crying, front and center. On the Washington Post website, it's the most read story (while only the 15th most emailed story - not sure if this means that everyone wants to know what's happening with Paris, but doesn't quite want everyone else to know how lame their interests are). The only current story about Paris that I liked at all was the Salon story We'll always hate Paris, but even here I have to think that the level of vitriol assigned to Paris is really out of proportion to anything she's ever done, to her actual importance in the universe - it's just crazy that she should bring up such strong emotions/opinions in people.
While I admit that I used to enjoy flipping through People magazine and similar fare when I was waiting to have my teeth cleaned or wasting away an hour getting my hair colored, I am now officially, completely done with those magazines and am just overwhelmingly sick of their content. I know it makes me sound old to say that things are worse than they used to be, but I really think the pervasiveness of the attention to celebrities is just out of control. Of course it can be mindless fun once in a while to check out dresses at the Academy Awards or similar things, but who really cares or needs to know on a daily basis what people are wearing/driving when they go to the grocery store/gym/walk down the street, where they spent their summer vacation (rehab), who got paid 200K to show up at a party, who forgot their underwear and who is sleeping together this week? It is so high school it's absurd.
I am amazed that many people seem to be able to offer a more considered opinion as to whether Jessica Simpson is right for John Mayer than what the hell we should be doing in Iraq or health care or global warming or any other major issue facing the country. I realize the latter issues require a harder analysis than the former, but if people spent the time that's wasted on each inane celebrity story taking on the responsibility of educating themselves about something (anything) of substance, I'm sure we'd all be better off.
Angelina Jolie is photographed in a dress and it sells out, but how much money do people donate to the various causes for which she evangelizes? I realize it's a lot easier/sexier/lighter to contemplate celebrity glamour and relationships than the state of our REAL world, but most people have a more realistic chance of matching Angelina Jolie's philanthropic efforts (at least in intent) than they ever do of looking like her, regardless of what dress they're wearing.