I Kinda Feel Bad For Paris

June 6, 2007

Whose jaw didn’t drop with shocked delight watching Sarah Silverman’s opening monologue at the MTV Movie Awards? See the clip below.

Silverman was on her game, and I guess it’s nothing I didn’t expect. But there’s something disturbing about this world of relentless display, a world in which Paris Hilton is in the audience (and apparently scheduled for more than that) at the MTV Movie Awards mere hours before she checks in to prison. How strange to think that, for some people, this is actually real life–showing up at an awards ceremony is almost like gamely showing up to work. That it would make some sense to her to share what must be a crisis in her young life with MTV’s viewers and, inevitably, the entire public. Perhaps she didn’t expect the reaction of the audience, but she risked it.

Pink Is The New Blog of course has the day-by-day update on “Inmate #9818783” with all the pleasure and spite we would wish. The TV Guide Channel is running this special right now (you know, in the little box above the listings): it’s called “Paris in Prison” and it feels like it’s on all day long. Commentators, and doctors, and lawyers, sit around and discuss the situation–how and when she entered prison, what she must be going through psychologically, what her prison experience will be like, and, most importantly, why she deserves it.

We can’t look away; we love and we hate. People are not only thrilled that Paris Hilton is being punished for her extravagance but they are angry at her; just listen to the audience cheering in that clip. It seems that we need celebrities so we can get out our vitriol. What did we do with all that nastiness before tabloids and blogs? Celebrities are open, easy targets. You can say pretty much anything about these people. Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan act the most like celebrities–rich, entitled, fabulous, superficial, and drunk–and so they get the most of both, the most attention and the most hatred.

So, okay, we have these impulses. I hate Angelina Jolie just like the rest of America. But is it just me, or are these feelings exclusively directed toward women? Of course we think Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson are bat shit crazy, but the only man I can think of who receives this amount of disgust and hatred is K.Fed, and you know I can’t really say what that’s about. At any rate, those celebrity habits so abhorred in Paris and Lindsay are also specifically gendered. These women are seen as extravagant, shallow, vain, materialistic–stereotypically feminine vices, all of them. They are called “party girls,” but also “on the road to ruin.” I searched around for their male equivalents but all I could find were pages about how dreamy Colin Farrell and other “bad boys” are. Of course, everyone thinks these women are hot –that’s why we can’t stop looking at them–but their appearance and sexuality just provide even more reasons to also despise them. Sarah Silverman’s joke about Paris was funny and horrifying; it was also direct. Even Paris doesn’t like being called a whore.

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