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December 7th, 2009


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01:48 pm - Musings On Celebrity
Yesterday, teaotter and I were talking about how people react to various sorts of celebrities. Her most interesting observations was that the intense focus on the private lives of politicians was exceedingly damaging, because it was also so normative. If lots of people are watching your private life, and their opinions matter to your career, then you can’t afford to be too eccentric – poly, kinky, too geeky, and either queer, or at least not too openly queer, or any of the many other life-styles that are (too me at least) far richer than life in the cultural mainstream. Intense personal scrutiny of this sort strongly encourages mainstream behavior.

It’s fairly obvious why at least some people wish to know the details of various politicians’ lives. For example, while the fact that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford secretly took a trip to Argentina to see his mistress has nothing to do with his ability to govern, the fact that he paid for this trip using government funds is somewhat more relevant, and a politician getting a house or a vacation from some special interest group is even more relevant, as are any criminal charges like drunk driving (which calls into question what else that politician is doing while drunk), assault, or all manner of similar charges. However, that’s pretty much it. Everything beyond that is gossip that clearly sells newspapers and pays for TV ad time, but does nothing to promote good government.

However, there’s more than an interest in good government going on, and there’s likely well be more than an interest in policing mainstream values, since this sort of fascination is equally present about others celebrities, particularly well known actors and performers, and on a fundamental level, I don’t understand it. I’m interested in politics, but I don’t care one whit about the personal lives of politicians I admire, or even of ones that I dislike, and I care even less about the lives of actors and musicians. For example, I think Johnny Depp is both a wonderful actor and exceptionally sexy, but I have not the slightest bit of interest in his personal life. I’m exceedingly interested in the characters of shows that I’m passionate about, to the extent of regularly reading fan fiction. However, I’ve never remotely understood the jump from there to a fascination with the actors. Similarly, there’s a fair amount of music that I love, but other than knowing information about upcoming album releases or tour dates, and the occasional discussion about their music, I don’t care about their lives at all, beyond generally wishing them well. It’s clear that while the focus on and fascination with the lives of all manner of celebrities has grown in the past 20 years, it’s been present as long as there have been famous people, and can be seen in 1920s Hollywood as much as in 2009 Hollywood. In any case, while it’s possible to construct all manner of psychological just-so stories about why so many people are interested in celebrities, such speculation is typically useless, and so I’m far more interested in hearing from anyone who actually shares such interests as to why they think the lives of famous people are interesting.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:machineiv
Date:December 7th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
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Re: Sanford

I think it's actually very important to know when politicians directly defy their proposed platforms. If you run on a stance of "traditional family values," and you do something like that, you are a liar. A liar of that magnitude clearly has no regard for the truth in any capacity. It's very telling.
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From:heron61
Date:December 8th, 2009 12:20 am (UTC)
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*nods* It's difficult for me to understand how anyone who wasn't utterly vile would vote for a politician based on their promotion of any sort of personal morality (as opposed to either public policies or standards of professional conduct), but I guess that makes a scary sort of sense.
From:machineiv
Date:December 8th, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)
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Well, the assumption is, policies should be based on morality in some cases. For instance, any social program, in my opinion, should be considered because of social and moral imperative. I don't think it's okay for people to be homeless, for example. I also don't think it's moral for people to starve.

So if I'm voting for a politician, I want to know that they're not intentionally working to starve people or render them homeless.

In the instance of the right wing example, they vote *solely* on the grounds of some sort of silly moral imperative. They hate abortion. They love 'traditional marriage.' I think it's very important we reveal that their little idols have no concern for the politics they espouse.

Where I understand the concept of a bipartisan system, the right is typically wrong. Not of differing opinion: I feel that they are doing things that thoroughly and intentionally damages less powerful people. Anything to bring chaos and disorder to that base, to show them what their heroes are doing, is morally productive.
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From:heron61
Date:December 8th, 2009 08:00 am (UTC)
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So if I'm voting for a politician, I want to know that they're not intentionally working to starve people or render them homeless.

Obviously, but I don't want statements of morality, I want statements of what the politician will do. For me, morals and ideals are nice (or in the case of wingnuts, scary) talk, but practicalities are what matter to me when I vote for someone, I can to know that they have ideas for specific programs, laws, and policies that I agree with, not that their morals match mine.
From:machineiv
Date:December 8th, 2009 08:56 am (UTC)
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I certainly see your point, and I don't disagree entirely. However, I am usually a pretty good tell of who has at least a fundamental understanding of humanitarian thought. Those people are less likely to sell out their policies to the highest bidder. That's important in my choices.

My first big thought on Obama was that I can tell what he believes in. I can also see that it's torturing him that he can't accomplish the things he wants, that he's trying to make the best of what he's given. That sympathetic understanding helps when I'm asking myself "why isn't X being accomplished?" I am confident he's trying.
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From:slothman
Date:December 7th, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
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I like learning a bit about the actors— I quite enjoyed a behind-the-scenes show about Stargate SG-1 where I was pleased to learn that Amanda Tapping makes a point of reading up on hard science so she actually knows something about the lines her character Samantha Carter is delivering, and amused to see that Christopher Judge is an incredibly bouncy and happy guy who must really be locking it down to play the dour Teal’c. I think having cameras follow actors into their personal lives, though, is quite rude.

I agree with machineiv that it’s good to see when a politician (or anyone else taking a public stand on an issue) is a hypocrite.
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From:silvaerina_tael
Date:December 8th, 2009 12:58 am (UTC)
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At one point, many, many years ago (I was a teen) I was fascinated with Kiss and Queensryche to the point I bought magazines with articles on them. Nowadays, however, I mostly agree with you. I couldn't care less (and would rather not care more) about the goings on regarding various celebrities, or politicians for that matter.
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From:krinndnz
Date:December 8th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
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This is definitely an interesting point about policing or loudly witnessing conformity to mainstream values. I bet there's more to be said on that subject.
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From:dancinglights
Date:December 8th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
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I tend to care about creative celebrities' lives to the extent that it affects their body of work. I have a mild obsession with Hunter Thompson, as the best example, because so much of his work was fictionalised autobiography, and I wanted to see where he came from, and what factual bits bled into the narrative. I'm interested in Depp's work enough to know how he (says he) studies up for his characters, and the influence he adds to them as an actor who puts a lot of personality into what could be bland roles, and enough to know that he lives outside of the US to live his life out of view of nutjob American fans, so beyond that point I don't really research further.

Like machineiv, I do care slightly about the foibles of politicians who campaign entirely based on claims of personal moral standing and I get a bit schadenfreude-y when it gets exposed that they are running their own lives counter to those morals and it loses them face/jobs. (And I generally agree with you that the folks who support such people are, in fact, vile. Or stupid.)

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