Danville Express

Living - January 5, 2007

The 411: Celebrity gossip distracts from real issues

by Katharine O'Hara

As long as Hollywood exists, so will the tabloids, entertainment shows and the population's endless fascination with the lives of the rich and famous. In light of the recent craze over the verbal duel between "The Donald" and Rosie O'Donnell, Nicole Richie's drug bust and the Britney Spears-Paris Hilton partying ordeal, I think it is best we take a step back and reprioritize. In the larger spectrum of things, does anyone really care that Britney Spears doesn't wear underwear? From speculation, many teenagers today seem to be far more interested in celebrity gossip than the war in Iraq and other daily, worldwide tragedies.

It seems that in suburbia we are all so bored with our own lives that we tend to turn to others' lives for amusement.

"I kind of keep up with celebrity nonsense Ö out of sheer boredom," said Nina Umont, a Monte Vista High School junior. "My mom buys People magazine, and if I have nothing better to do, I read about Nicole Richie's arrest or Lindsay Lohan accidentally flashing the world. I think the average American likes the idea of living vicariously through these celebrities, or seeing how similarly stupid they can be to us. Perhaps it is comforting to see such rich and famous people acting somewhat 'normal.'"

The public is somewhat relieved at the sight of such acclaimed people making mistakes because it makes their own mistakes look half as bad. Celebrity drama provides people an escape and a way by which to detract from their own problems.

The knowledge of celebrity lives also seems to be a common ground for a lot of people - a conversation starter of sorts. Many are familiar with the latest People magazine cover story or Access Hollywood episode, and this provides a common topic of discussion.

"Gossiping about celebrities gives people something to talk about whether it be one admiring or relating to their favorite star, or criticizing another," said Andrew Taverrite, a junior at San Ramon Valley High School.

Mocking celebrities allows for a sort of guiltless criticism, where one can scrutinize another without getting in trouble. It is interesting how people tend to glom onto the lives of people they have no personal connection to, and care so much about their honeymoon spot, divorces, depression and eating disorders.

"I'm not interested in celebrity gossip because I am not personally attached to these people and thus have no need to follow the drama in their lives. I have my own drama to worry about and issues to take care of," said Aisha Siddiqui, an SRVHS junior.

It is disappointing that the public has stooped to such a low level that inordinate amounts of time and energy are devoted to following these attention-craving people. The fact that a person like Paris Hilton has been able to achieve stardom based merely off her parent's wealth, her good looks and scandalous behavior, says something about our society. Paris' fame rides on the back of the public, who financially support her pathetic pursuits - singing, clothing design, etc. - that have only stemmed from her achieved fame. But isn't it supposed to be the other way around? A person should become famous due to an outstanding ability or talent, not suddenly decide that they are famous enough to sustain a singing career. Because consumers are drawn to Paris Hilton's drama and purchase a magazine or tabloid with her story on the cover, her bad behavior - and terrible voice - is being rewarded with upgraded status and fame.

Not only are these infamous stars given endless attention from the public, but many are adored and revered by the thousands of children (and adults) who hopelessly aspire to be just like their favorite star.

"A lot of teens view celebrities as role models and are thus drawn to talking about their latest drama," said Taverrite.

But the behavior a lot of these celebrities engage in serves as anything but a good example, in my opinion.

When it comes down to it, there is a multitude of problems far more worthy of the world's attention than who stole whose husband or wore the same dress to the Academy Awards. The forceful nature of the media that consumes the lives of teens all over the nation is causing this coming generation of teenagers to be completely ignorant of issues such as global warming, world poverty, AIDS and the war in Iraq - issues that, unlike the drama of celebrities, will truly affect their lives if not attended to soon.

The 411 offers information and insight on the teen scene by Katharine O'Hara, a junior at San Ramon Valley High School who spends her free time going to concerts, enjoying her friends, and playing the piano.


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