Sunday, November 20, 2011
Why am I supposed to care about Suri Cruise?
Or Brad and Angelina's Rainbow Coalition of adoptees? Or (dear God) Kourtney Kardashian's two-year old son, Mason? (I think it's actually probably spelled Kmason, with the "K" silent, as is in "knife," but what do I know? Consistency, as Emerson said, is the hobgoblin of small minds.)
Photo of Suri: Splash News, and they're proud of it.
So what's with all the celebrity sprouts? As far as I know, none of them has come up with a cure for malaria or been shortlisted for the Booker Prize or even earned straight gold stars on her spelling tests. And yet, certain kinds of media pummel us with them, and I don't get it.
Or, if I do get it, it makes me very unhappy. I mean, I suppose I'm pleased that Angelina and Madonna and other great white earth mothers snatch multicultural children out of poverty and turn them into fashion accessories (I know, that's mean), but the children themselves are -- well, they're children. They don't have provocative ideas about greenhouse gases or solutions to economic inequality. They haven't devised a plan to help Americans elect politicians who haven't been bought and paid for by the financial sector.
These kids should be no more interesting to people whose children they aren't than the third little girl in line for the slide at any elementary school in America. And yet, some folks can't get enough of them. They sell hundreds of thousands of magazines, they pile up millions of page views online. Splash News puts its name on their images.
So here's where my opinion gets me into trouble. Anyone who buys a magazine because it's got Suri Cruise or any other celebrity spawn on the cover is, by my personal definition, an idiot. She or he is living a life so devoid of a center, so deeply lacking a worthwhile value system that not only are celebrities (even Kardashian celebrities) objects of an almost religious regard, but the as-yet-unformed, as-yet-accomplishment-free children of celebrities are also worthy of awe and wonder. Reflections of reflections of reflections, but still apparently worth reverence -- and hard-earned dollars.
I have to credit this nonsense to a popular culture that shamelessly panders to the lowest common denominator at the same time that it helps to build the lowest common denominator by giving them feasts of crap to bottom-feed on. And the rise of this thought-free -- indeed, anti-thought -- popular culture coincides with the precipitous decline of the American public education system.
Back when people who graduated from high school could read a compound sentence, the Suri Cruise category of content-for-mouth-breathers used to be reserved for the supermarket tabloids, but as we've gotten closer to the end of the world (the world of ideas, anyway), it's spread into magazines, television, even the occasional book. And I blame this spread of mindlessness on the fact that the American public is, literally, getting dumber with every class that graduates from high school.
We seem to have an ever-growing segment of the population in which a critical synapse has collapsed, rendering them susceptible to the notion that people who make fools out of themselves on reality television are "celebrities." Here we are, we proclaim to the world, here stand the brainless who can't tell the difference between famous and interesting, between empty and worthwhile. There are those among us who would ask Hitler for his autograph. After all, he was famous.
And these people, God help us, vote. They're the audience most campaign rhetoric is designed down to. They and the cynics in both parties are responsible for campaigns that focus on reproductive issues and prayer in schools instead of plans to reduce the deficit or to free government from corporate domination. They shape the issues of the election.
They fiddle with magazines with Suri Cruise on the cover while home burns. They dwell heedlessly in the ruins of an empire of thought, in which men and women were once considered to be citizen philosophers who could be entrusted with choosing their governments. And, to be candid, they scare me silly.
Does this sound elitist? Well, the hell with it. What we want right now, I think is enlightened elitism, which is a good description of a meritocracy. Meritocracy sounds really good to me at this point. I'm having buttons made up that read MERITOCRAT: I VOTE FOR BRAINS.
We need a good, solid futile gesture at this point.
Grumpy old Tim -- Sundays
at 1:43 AM