What Ever Happened to Class?: In Which I Attempt to Pinpoint the Exact Moment Dignity Died
And, this weekend, a lady who got pissed on by the brother of a '90s R&B afterthought*, has had her cellulite vacuumed on TV and recently used a couple of dry skin patches as a method to get more attention--which totally worked--got married and people dared call it "America's royal wedding." Lindsay Lohan was there, wearing a Caché reject and--I say this without the slightest hint of hyperbole or exaggeration--looking older than her mother, and she actually hired a paparazzi photographer to take photos of her while she got dressed for a wedding of a lady who got pissed on by the brother of a '90s R&B afterthought.
*falls over, out of breath, tired and sad*
How did we get here? How did this happen?
No, I'm genuinely asking you. Seriously. How?
Perhaps as a lesson in futility, perhaps because I want to weep ceaselessly for a few days, I'm going to attempt to put the pieces together and find an answer.
Piece #1: The Clinton Scandal
There had, of course, been big time sex scandals before. But not like this. This was huge, and television audiences soaked up every detail like jizzum on dress and it was ratings gold.
Aftermath: Schadenfreude + sex = Universal interest
Piece #2: Early 2000s Reality Programming
You know, The Real World gets a lot of flack for undoing the entire fabric of humanity, but, in its defense, it really was perfectly innocent, save for some shower threesomes and object-throwing, until Hawaii. Hawaii is where shit went sour. And why did shit go sour? Because the year was 1999, and it was about to become 2000. And THAT is where everything fell apart.
The early days of the aughts brought us that delightful "Who Wants to Marry A Multi-Millionnaire?" in which viewers watched as a woman sold herself into sexual slavery on live television. Yes, it was universally reviled as a disaster of human decency, but you can't revile without paying attention to something. Darva Conger would of course go on to become the patron saint of flash-in-the-pans who went on to flash their pans in Playboy.
Aftermath: A more literal interpretation of "there's no such thing as bad publicity."
Piece #3: Celebreality, and its Dilution
Why let these dumb new dating game shows get all the fun? What do people want more than naked people fighting on an island, or a Carrot Top-looking guy pretending to be a millionaire? They want famous people, small dogs and poo. And that is where celebrity-based reality shows come in.
Between "Anna Nicole," "The Osbournes," "Newlyweds" and "The Simple Life," famous people and their progeny were humiliating themselves for those all important ad dollars. Every single individual involved with these programs--and by that I mean the female ones, as the males went relatively unscathed, save for Ozzy who is made of bouncy ball material--would spend the rest of their famous days as punchlines. Rich punchlines, with perfume deals and Pizza Hut contracts, but punchlines nonetheless.
And this is where we crossed the line. No longer were random nobodies giving into this world where we demand they all perform like dancing monkeys, flinging feces for our enjoyment. Now, things had been legitimized by people who did not need the money to put food on the table, and were enjoying plenty of success and popularity on their own, but quickly learned that they could gain even more of it by playing the court jester, drunkenly flashing vaginas, throwing hams at neighbors, and, of course, displaying confusion regarding whether a particular foodstuff is seafood or poultry.
This was no longer about gaining fifteen minutes of fame. Now, presence as a national laughingstock was a goal, an endgame.
Piece #4: And that's how we got Paris Hilton.
I want to be very specific here. I want to say my words quickly and firmly, lest you think me joking or overstating for the purposes of a pop culture website. What I'm about to say is nothing but solid truth and fact.
Paris Hilton was the pestilence-ridden straw that broke our society's back. I cannot put too fine a point on this.
She was not new. She was not fresh. She was not innovative. People had been famous for little to no reason for years. But never like this. Her classlessness was not merely on display for all to see--it was all there was to see. It was a point of pride, the entire shine on the fetid apple. She wanted you to see her sex tape, her endlessly open mouth taking upwards of five minutes to say a single sentence and her storage units filled with videos of her saying various racial epithets and gay slurs, and anyone who didn't like it was "jealous." And for all this she was rewarded with the kind of fame and wealth we couldn't begin to dream.
In her wake, she left a pile of clones and wannabes, all willing to beg and degrade themselves in order to obtain a mere scrap of attention. And it's worked really fucking well. So well that the former Olympic athlete in the family, the only one who ever actually did ANYTHING, is the one who matters the least to people. And then that mess lead us back toward non-well known people spitting in the face of AA and smearing themselves in Alli poo and calling it a tan and actually enjoying it when people hate them because at least they're thinking about them.
That's the final piece. The loathing. No longer is attention the goal. Now it's active disgust. Anyone can get people to love them, but love doesn't cause that kind of thought and efforted consideration. Hatred does.
And that, my friends, is how we now exist in a world where a once popular young actress wears white to the wedding of a reality show nobody in a desperate effort to upstage her. Where an entire state has been made a worldwide joke because of its more orange, less scrupulous denizens. Where teenagers get pregnant to get on television, then are handed boob jobs as a bonus.
Well. There. I've done it. I've attempted to figure out why our present popular culture is such a shitshow.
Don't we all feel better?
* Brandy, you know I didn't really mean that. "Have You Ever" truly spoke to me.
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