Tuesday, October 14, 2008
::The Repulsive New Age of Celebrity::
Andy Worhol once predicted that the future age of celebrity would produce incremental moments of stardom for the average joe and jane. And though we may look at it as cliche phraseology, his 15 minutes of fame cojecture has come to fruition with a Nostradamus-like certainty. It seems that disposable celebrity culture has been discernably augmented in the past 8 years. Never before have we been privy to the mundane minutiae of the lives of television stars, singers and actors alike. If your Grandmother thought the National Enquirer was naughty, she should be turning in her grave right about now. Trash blogs like PerezHilton.com, television shows like TMZ, and radio shock jocks like Wendy Williams, have all spawned copy cat dumpster divers who pride themselves on unearthing the most sordid and intimate detailes of celebrity business.
It can be argued that while gossip papers like the National Enquirer preceeded this new craze, the reality show was the ultimate catylist. The fly-on-the-wall chronicle perspective, achieved by the presence of incessant camera crews, seems poised to blow conventional paparazzi photography out of the water. But just as Worhol suggested, even everyday people, from local contestants on shows like American Idol to shows like Extreme Makeover, stand the chance to become disposable celebrites from the reality show phenomenon. And when the new crop of singers and actors seem to have been scavenged, why not reach back and grab some one-hit-wonders? Kings of the art of retro retrospective VH1 and their series Celebrity Fit Club seemed to have cornered the market on that for a moment. Prompted by the success of MTV's Run's House featuring the family of Rev Run, formerly of Run DMC and Snoop Dogg's Father Hood on E!, the Oxygen network proudly presents 90s rapper Coolio in his new show Coolio's Rules.
Hmm. Personally, I've grown tired of the "reality" show. It's come a long way since MTV's Real World debuted in 1992. It set out as a fresh and exciting perspective in television. But now its grown long in the tooth. And the doctored antics and hijinks of the progeny of aging rappers featured on the aforementioned shows is a bit predictable and milquetoast at this point. The irony of it all is that absolutely none of it is reality. All of these shows have teams of writers that craft story lines and fiascos for each episode. Quite often, the families are moved into rented homes for a more pronounced appearance. And the footage that is filmed is then edited down into 20 minute increments to project a specific, calculated image of the subjects in question. There's your reality on a silver plater...with wordrobe, make up artists and lighting.
it's easy to understand why there are so many reality shows. Bottom line: the production costs are considerably cheaper. So when a network gets ratings through the roof on a show on which they spent a fraction of the cost of a conventional television series, it's music to their ears. And no one can argue that television started out as an artform...because it didn't. Their main objective was to aquire as many viewers so that advertisers would spend crazy sums of money to spotlight their products throughout the course of the broadcast day, which was usually in the evening. Now, television doesn't go off. To maximize profits, networks broadcast 24/7 creating a new demographic of viewer: the night owl. In addition, the networks have gone to no end in advertising for these television shows. So when I walked into the subway station in Midtown today, I thought either some Madison Avenue firm had OD'd in hopes of stimulating interest in Coolio's Rules, or that I was in a house of mirrors.
I doubt that Coolio's show will trump any of the other Hip-Hop reality shows in ratings, and I definitely won't be tuning in to find out. But then again, Kanye premiered his "Love Lockdown" video on The Ellen Degeneres Show, so maybe the stay-at-home soccer moms in middle America who tune into Oxygen just may prove me wrong. Stranger things have happened.