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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Sinking in a sea of stupidity

Published: September 21, 2007
Section: Opinions

Is it just me, or is television getting more ridiculous by the millisecond? Im the first to admit, I like my guilty pleasure TV shows too- Greys Anatomy, Ugly Betty, even the occasional Entertainment Tonight! But come on people, why in the world do I care about how many times Lindsey Lohan has been in and out of rehab this week? And why is Britney Spears lip synching a form of entertainment?

Recently, as I was reading Neil Postmans book Amusing Ourselves To Death, I got to thinking a lot on this subject. Is our society truly amusing ourselves to death? Is TV losing any last ounce of credibility which it was clinging so tightly to before? Whos to say, but I think we might be speeding towards (if not already having crashed into) this barrier of stupidity.

Postman makes an important point that, people urge TV to host important cultural conversations, but the trouble with such people is that they do not take television seriously enough. Because we dont even view TV as legitimate and dont take it seriously anymore, how can it be? TV used to contain programs of substance, but now were just drowning in a world of flimsy Jell-O messes. I believe we need to redefine our definition of what news is. Is news the latest update on the war in Iraq, or is it Britney Spears finally really losing it and shaving her head? While both are news in their own respects, we need to recognize that there are different levels of news. Theres your guilty pleasure news (aka Lindsey Lohan) and then theres your intellectual news (aka the presidential election).Both inform us, both appeal to different spectrums of the medias target audience. Im not saying that the pitfalls of celebrities cant be at some times interesting, because Im the first to admit that I tuned into Entertainment Tonight when Paris Hilton got sprung from jail-indignantly so, I might add. And as Postman says, the best things on television are its junk. But the fact that our nightly news programs incongruously juxtapose the importance of some celebritys divorce or latest jail sentence with say the more important things like, hmm I dont know- war, disease, global warming? That has to say something about our society, and at the same time, it also doesnt say much at all. Because at the end of the day, what do we, personally, have a stake in, what affects us- the latest celebrity scandal, or global warming? I dont know about you, but I think that the wasting away of our earth affects me just a little bit more than whos cheating on whom in Hollywood.

Sometimes, I feel more like a psychiatrist than a viewer. Seriously, look at the comparisons: Im sitting on my couch, listening to someone else air out their dirty laundry. But in this scenario, Im not getting paid, and my patient is an attention-hungry celebrity. Were the ones paying money for cable, yet it seems like celebrities are the ones getting their moneys worth for the cost of nothing.

Theres nothing wrong with following the escapades of celebrities;

we all do it sometimes, I do it! I enjoy me some celebrity gossip as much as the next girl, but I know where to draw the line. There are just some things that shouldnt be chronicled on a TV screen- weight loss and gain, divorce, etc. Imagine if someone maliciously painted a picture of your personal life for the entire world to see and then ask yourself- is this really ethical?

Why is it that we cant seem to take our eyes off of the screen when crises occur I, personally, am a little tired of hearing about Britney Spears. We all know the story- girl hits it big in Hollywood, girls popularity suddenly plummets, girl tries to make a comeback by flaunting her problems- its been seen time and again. But why should it be the prevailing public opinion that a comeback must synonymously be equated with a myriad of psychological issues? I consider myself an empathetic person, so Im the first to admit, I feel bad for Britney. She obviously has some issues, but who among us doesnt? Granted, hers seem to be a lot more exaggerated than anything the average person deals with, but still! So I can feel bad for her based on the fact that she has some problems, but that doesnt mean I want to be her shrink. Flaunting your problems on the TV screen time and again doesnt make me feel sympathetic for you or want to listen to your music. The opposite effect usually ensues- I get sick of you! Its like the boy who cried wolf- how many times can you really listen to the same story?

Now I dont want to seem like Im picking on Britney in specific, so lets mention some other celebrities who seem to be suffering from the attention-hog syndrome- Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, etc, etc. The revolving Hollywood door of rehab is definitely no stranger to any of these faces, yet normal peoples trips to rehab arent splashed all over the front page. So how about giving these girls a little privacy, for their sake and mine and yours? I dont want to have to wait ten extra minutes to hear the weather report for the day so I can hear about the private lives of these starlettes. Okay, once will maybe catch my attention, maybe Ill even sit down and listen for a second, but every time the news comes on?

Again, Im not proposing that celebrity news doesnt have its place in our lives. Oftentimes, its a good release for people, allowing them to forget their own problems for a second and listen to the ups and downs of others. But we need to wake up and realize that we might just be a little too plugged into the lives of people we dont even know. In the real world, we like to call that stalking. I mean in no way to say that we shouldnt listen to these news reports about shallow subjects because then I would be a hypocrite. What we should consider is separating the vital from the superfluous, and becoming a little more tuned in to what were mindlessly absorbing.