Whenever I hear Britney Spears on the radio these days, I can’t help but think of her as some sort of non-entity; a quivering mound of protoplasm in a halter top and platform sandals that bleats out lyrics every few months on command when it notices it has been placed in a recording studio. Those lyrics are then autotuned and overproduced into the familiar, record-selling sound we’ve come to expect from Britney, which is then set to a pounding house beat and released gently into its number-one slot on the billboard charts.
This train of thought led me to recall those legendary brainless, soulless chicken-substitutes that are grown in laboratories across the country and served to unsuspecting (or suspecting) patrons at KFC– which as we all know can no longer be called ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’, as it no longer actually serves actual chickens.
Those depressing, zombie-chicken caricatures of living flesh, despite their unsavory origins, produce appealing enough fried drumsticks and meaty breaded breasts of the kind we’ve come to expect from KFC. They’re tender and juicy and utterly regulated. Superficially delicious and satisfying, they’re enjoyable in part because of their predictable sameness and dependability. They have, after all, been precisely engineered to meet our criteria for a fast, fried, chicken-y dinner of adequate taste and quality. But think too long about their origins, and you’re bound to feel a little queasy.
In a way, those sad, brainless laboratory chickens remind me of our current crop of celebrities, pop stars and prize athletes. They’ve been hand-selected by the same greedy, shadowy boards to meet our exact standards for dazzling celebrity sex appeal. Young and tender, sexy and shiny-haired yet pleasantly homogenous; while they weren’t exactly grown in laboratories, we know that they’re not naturally made, either. We know that what they say and do and the way they perform is not the genuine article. The legacies they create weren’t born of a natural wellspring of passion, creativity, or intellect. But we eat them up and follow their antics mindlessly, because they’re what we’ve come to expect, to demand. We think they’re no better than what we deserve.
Well, I’ve about had my fill of these KFcelebrities. I’m ready to bestow my interest, envy and admiration on genuine artists, writers, and other public figures who grew into fame in their own ways, in their own terms. People with real meat on their bones!
The following is from a 3-way discourse on the Susan Boyle Phenomenon over at the Perpetual Post:
Let’s face it: Pretty is the new pretty. And the old pretty. And next season’s pretty. Looks are about all we have the attention span for these days—words take too long to listen to; forget about ideas. Because we like pretty, we prefer to get much of our social and cultural stimulation from pretty faces, which is sometimes hard, because pretty mouths don’t always say pretty things. Or smart things, or things that make sense. This is not a tragedy, since at this point, nobody wants to know how you got your sharp wit or your theory of post-modern architecture—they want to know where you got your shoes.
Attractive celebrities, it is ever more commonly believed, are by virtue of their attractiveness able to excel at many different kinds of things. Models design clothing lines. Actors discuss globalization in tabloid interviews. Bono is an Op-Ed contributor for the New York Times. Jenny McCarthy speaks out against vaccinating your children. Tila Tequila wrote a book. Meanwhile, authors scowl, and schedule a professional photo shoot for their next dust jacket, because they have to do what they can to keep up appearances. Appearances are important, because they count, and they are what they seem. If you are attractive, you will likely receive the attention you deserve.
When these attractive people stumble or fail at something new that they’ve tried a hand at, we mock them, sure—but deep down, the very fact of their attractiveness tends to earn them our grudging respect. We are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Because they are attractive, they deserve to be treated as special.
In turn, these attractive celebrities do their best to remain attractive to us, their public. They get plastic surgery, they diet and exercise and attempt to make their bodies as appealing as possible. They get their hair and makeup done, they put extreme amounts of consideration into picking out their clothes.
Sure, ugly is still there, plodding around behind the scenes, rearing its turtle head into the spotlight occasionally, but we prefer not to think about it. We see enough ugly in our real lives; on the bus, at the gym, in the office. In the mirror. When we open a magazine or turn on the television, we’re ready to see some pretty, please.
When relatively unattractive people venture into these realms of television and magazines, therefore, they have the deck stacked against them from the beginning. This was demonstrated during Susan Boyle’s audition for Britain’s Got Talent. The audience took one look at this dowdy older woman and dismissed her. This is a common reaction to plainness. We lack patience for the unattractive; particularly the unattractive person who has the same hopes of achieving fame and fortune as attractive people do. Relatively unattractive people remind us that sometimes, we are vulnerable and human and unattractive ourselves. We too make mistakes, and we fear that no one will give us a chance either.
When Susan Boyle surprised everyone by being reasonably poised and talented, the most surprising thing about it was how much the audience disliked her before she gave her performance. When you don’t know someone, you can’t hate them—but you can hate the parts of them that remind you of what you hate about yourself. The loathing and disdain directed at Susan Boyle were not really meant for her.
Dear incandescently famous and attractive actor or pop star,
I don’t care what you like to eat.
I don’t care that you were plain in highschool, and also the biggest dork.
I don’t want to hear how exciting it is to be a parent.
I don’t care what you think about politics.
I don’t care what your relationship is ‘really’ like.
I don’t care what you learned from your family growing up.
DO NOT CARE!
Unless you have became famous for your searing wit and lively intellectualism, do us all a favor and stop doing so many dull, horrible magazine interviews.
(Dear insipid tabloid magazines, please do your part and stop encouraging celebrities to think that they are interesting).
I have become obsessed with several celebrities lately. ‘Celebrity’ might not be the best term for any of them, but it’s probably the kindest. Since the internet is the internet, there are myriad ways for me to indulge this new fixation. I can find dozens of pictures of them, read interviews with them and find news stories and gossip about their crazy lives. This only fuels the fire!
First Up: Gary Busey.
There is almost nothing about Gary Busey that doesn’t simultaneously fascinate and terrify me. I love his pearls of crackhead wisdom. His face looks like a bowl of angry bread pudding with dentures. He rambles on like a drunken prophet and you can’t help but think that he’s either out of his mind or he’s on a completely different level of consciousness than the rest of us. If I ever reached that level I would be dead in 5 minutes.
I marveled at his interviews from the DVD Extras for ‘Point Break’. While every other interview took place on a sound stage (and I think they interviewed everyone who had anything to do with that movie, from some random surfers who saw it to the guy who stocked the pastry cart), Gary was filmed on the porch of a cabin somewhere in the woods. I think he told the producers, “You want to talk to me? Fine. Come find me.” He is wearing a hunting cap, and even though you only see him from the shoulders down, it’s obvious to me that he is cradling a shotgun in his lap. His answers to questions are completely random and even though they probably tried to edit them into some semblance of a normal, linear conversation, it’s clear they would make the same amount of sense played both forwards and backwards.
As much time as I spend googling him, were I to actually meet Gary Busey on the street I would run the other way. This is a common theme among my internet obsessions.
Next Up: Pete Doherty.
Kristyn Meyer folds her long legs beneath her in the coveted corner booth of Le Crepe Beret, a Manhattan hotspot that boasts a waiting list of several hundred hopeful diners each night. She orders a cup of bay leaf tea and a baked raisin, spreading her napkin gracefully over shapely knees.
“I love this place,” the dainty twenty-three year old says, leaning forward with impulsive charm. “I wish I could live here.” I nod, and she continues. “I’ve actually looked into buying one of the apartment buildings across the street, just so I can be closer. You never know when you’re going to be hit with a craving for one of Beret’s moss dumplings.” She chuckles ruefully.
“Unfortunately, the apartment deal fell through. They didn’t allow animals in the building, and I really love animals. I can’t live in a building that doesn’t have animals in it. They just contribute so much good emotional energy to a place, you know?”
With her shining eyes and laughing hair, it is difficult not to love this vivacious honey-blonde upon first meeting. Hollywood is well aware of Kristyn’s widespread appeal, which is why she has been cast as the female lead in the last four box-office smash romantic comedies, as well as the upcoming Sassy Dames, an eagerly anticipated contemporary remake of Gone With the Wind.
When I bring up her recent successes, though, her sunny disposition becomes overcast.
“It’s not easy being a celebrity, you know?” she muses. “If you wear the wrong pants out one day, then the next day, it’s like, everybody’s talking about it.”
Kristyn’s face now shows a ten percent chance of rain.
“My friends tell me I need to just live my life,” she muses, with a faraway gaze. “And I’m like, ‘you know what? That’s easy for you to say. Nobody cares what pants YOU wear!” She laughs. “I mean, am I right?” Her good humor is contagious; I notice that customers at surrounding tables are looking at us with bemused smiles.
The food arrives. “They make the best raisin here!” Kristyn says, clapping her hands excitedly. “I order it every time. I always tell myself, ‘Kristyn! Try something else! The fig looks good too!’ But then the when the waiter comes, I’m like, ‘I’ll have the raisin.’” She grins ruefully.
I ask her what her favorite food is.
She looks at me. “The raisin.”
Kristyn tells me that a combination of yoga, walking, and natural laxatives keep her looking trim and fit.
“I don’t know what I’d do without that regimen,” she says. “Walking just keeps me feeling so balanced. It’s like, whenever there’s stress in my life, I just walk around a little, and I can feel myself forgetting about it. It’s so soothing.”
I ask about the natural laxatives, and she looks at me sharply. “I didn’t say that. I don’t do anything like that.”
I decide to change the subject. Tabloids have recently reported that the percentage of celebrities undergoing plastic surgery and other extreme measures to maintain their looks have skyrocketed in recent years, to nearly 85%. Asked what she thinks of this, Kristyn shakes her head and puts down her last forkful.
“I just don’t understand it,” she says disdainfully. “I mean, putting plastic in your face and your boobs so they look better? Disgusting. And so pathetic. It’s like, if God wants you to be wrinkly and old, then you better be wrinkly and old, because that’s what God wants, you know?”
“Plus,” she adds impishly, “What’s so bad about wrinkles? Some of my favorite things are wrinkled.”
She winks at me, and quips, “Like raisins!”