September 11, 2008 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | | September 11, 2008 |


Though I stated a few years ago that my review of Perez Hilton’s blog would be a one-time thing, it’s apparent that this sort of service is lacking on the interwebs. There are thousands of blogs on the old www, and now that they are slowly chipping away at the mainstream media and, effectively, making print publications obsolete (for example, the sole state newspaper in my home state of Maine is currently in danger of shuttering), there doesn’t seem to be a place on the web that provides reviews for a medium that many of us spend more time, each day, reading than we spend with TV, movies, or books. How do I know that? A blog told me so.

So, starting today, I’m going to introduce a new weekly feature here, reviewing some of the more popular blogs in politics, celebrity gossip, gadgets, sports, and entertainment. Hopefully, over the course of weeks or months, we can introduce to our readers a few worthy places to visit when you aren’t squatting here, and maybe steer you clear from some others. We are, after all, a review site.

But more than that, if you’ll excuse the earnestness, perhaps these reviews will start new discussions on the state of the media, the value of blogs, and their role in our culture. Or, maybe, we’ll just bitch. That’s the more likely scenario today.

Blog: TMZ.com

Topic: Celebrity Gossip

Review: We start with TMZ.com, largely because — whether we’d like to believe it or not — along with Perez Hilton’s blog, they are the most popular celebrity blogs on the web, fetching around 50 million page views a week. Wrap your brain around that. 50 million(!) Combined, more people read TMZ and Perez Hilton than watch the nightly news. And we wonder why Sarah Palin is so fucking popular. Combined, they are also the most despicable, atrocious websites on the Internet, this side of Michelle Malkin’s site. But this is one instance where, actually, I find TMZ.com viler the Perez.

See: More often than not, Perez Hilton, like most gossip bloggers, pulls an image or a gossip item from somewhere else, and then adds his perspective to it. In the case of Perez, that perspective amounts to photoshopping cum driblets or cocaine nose onto a celebrity photo and using a lot of exclamation points below it (in the celebrity gossip world, that’s called “fair use”). It’s childish, moronic, and lacking in creativity or wit, but — besides the brain rot — relatively harmless, except to the overly sensitive celebrities who take umbrage to his juvenile musings. Hilton is an idiot (and one who lost his ability to effectively mock celebrities by virtue of becoming one himself), but he’s an idiot that lacks fangs. We don’t loathe him personally (though, there’s certainly a lot of that, too) as much as we loathe what he represents, namely the further de-evolution of our culture. He has three brain cells, and for a few minutes each day, his readers have to share them.

TMZ.com, on the other hand, systematically generates gossip. They are fucking bottom-feeders, made up of morally valueless puds who follow celebrities around with cameras, who sit outside of Lindsay Lohan’s house, who follow Britney Spears door to door, and who chase down Paris Hilton on their motorcycles. In fact, they feed many of the celebrity gossip sites, like vultures feed their young. With the remains of dead caracasses. And unlike every other celebrity gossip site on the Internet, TMZ has the money that corporate backing brings them to chase, stalk, smear, and spread. And TMZ doesn’t even try to come up with anything new or insightful; they just append a string of puns above their images and collect their reward.

Now, obviously, I don’t hate celebrity gossip blogs, and to suggest otherwise would be hypocritical, given my experience (badly, so very badly) writing for one. But here’s the thing: The better ones do more than spread gossip and innuendo; they aim to mock the celebrity culture, and inject some of their own personality into them, mostly with lots of self-deprecation (and often, unfortunately, masturbation humor or flagrant misogyny). The better ones use celebrities as vehicles for their own brand of comedy. They do what I could never effectively do during my brief time as a failed gossip blogger: Take celebrities to task, mock them for being vapid, and do so while remaining above them. Gossip blogging also requires an insanely uncommon ability to make new jokes about the same 15 people, day after day after day, given very little new material to work with. It’s brain-shartingly difficult to do well, which is why a site like TMZ doesn’t bother to do it well. They just do it with more money and resources.

But writing for a good celebrity gossip blogs also requires an amount of political incorrectness I could never muster. You can try to approach celebrity gossip from a high-minded perspective, but you won’t be a popular gossip blog. Self-righteousness has absolutely no place in that genre. To write gossip well requires a certain mean-spiritedness, an ability to creatively turn a cheap joke without making it sound cheap, and an affinity for getting down into the muck without letting it get to you (all skills our own Stacey Nosek pulls off admirably, which I say with immense respect. She really is one of the best — funny, mean, but never serious about it). Personally, I tried that approach, and the day I found myself calling Alanis Morissette — someone I hugely admire — overweight, was the day I wept in a corner and called it quits, having long passed the point of self-loathing.

But TMZ is straight-up nasty; there’s no conceit, there. There’s no self-deprecation, no subtle or not-so-subtle digs at celebrity culture. There’s not an iota of satire. They have no personality; hell, they have no fucking soul. They don’t get down into the muck; they are the muck. They revel in gotcha! moments; they not only exploit a celebrity’s misery, they help to create that misery. It’s not good-natured ribbing; there is no attempt at creating humor. It’s just cruel for the sake of being cruel. Straight-up, pun-filled nastiness (see, e.g., where they actually identified an underage rape victim. Hilarious!).

TMZ.com aims for the jugular of the celebrity world, all right. But they are so crass, so stupid, and so debasing, that it’s like watching a throat-slit murder with a plastic, serrated butter knife. There’s just no joy in that brand of prolonged, torture-filled messiness, unless — of course — it’s Harvey Levin under that knife. He and TMZ are sleazy. Evil. They are the barnacles on the end of a syphilitic prick.

Sample Post: On the death of “American Idol” Elliot Yamin’s mother: “Claudette Yamin had been hospitalized over the weekend — so far, no cause of death revealed. She recently returned to her home in Richmond from L.A., the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Yamin finished in 3rd place in 2006 on “Idol,” behind Katharine McPhee and Taylor Hicks — who, like Mrs. Yamin, will never be heard from again.”

Rating: Quadruple Ass.

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TMZ.com: A Wart on the Anus of the Internet

TMZ.com Blog Review/ Dustin Rowles

September 11, 2008 | Comments ()




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