06 July, 2007

OH MY GOD...I forgot that I have a blog.

I know that everyone is probably clammoring to know why I've been MIA for more than a month. The simplest and most truthful explanation is that blogging, like many other things that I don't engage in regularly (including watching reruns of Project Runway, eating French fries once every few months, and indulging in rounds of noisy Scrabble with my crew), tends to get lost in the shuffle of daily life. Shameful, I know.

While indulging in one of my rather infreqent lazyfests last night (which involves sitting in front of a television equipped with cable and watching whatever catches my interest--this can be anything from TMI-filled documentaries about gastric bypass surgery to American Chopper), I caught, quite by accident, an interesting half-hour of television entitled Hey Paula, a series which purports to follow former pop sensation and erstwhile paparazzi magnet/Simon Cowell foil Paula Abdul as she navigates life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Watching Hey Paula is somewhat akin to watching someone get punched repeatedly between the legs, while being hung upside down by their feet in a glass cage, which is then suspended over a tank full of acid while a group of hungry sharks (that can, weirdly, somehow survive being in acid) swim in it. The glass cage, of course, is liable to break at any second. The person who is in this situation, additionally, has volunteered to do this on national television**, which makes it somehow worse. This is a strange scenario, certainly, and, much like what we witness on Hey Paula, is almost funny in a grotesque, David Lynch-esque way. Though I wanted to end up rooting for Paula while witnessing her consistently erratic and bizarre behavior during this particular episode, there was something slightly disengenuous about her repeated claims that she was, and is, "just a regular girl."

Paula Abdul is not a regular girl. This seems obvious, yet some people seem to inexplicably love the fantasy that their favorite celebrities are just like them. Paula lives in a gigantic mansion in Los Angeles. She is wealthy. She is an entertainer. She is a "judge" on a show that is arguably one of the cruxes of the American myth of celebrity, fame and fortune. She is the product of a culture that emphasizes a notion of instant celebrity, of breakthrough, of the belief that anyone can be insanely famous and therefore "successful," provided that they express talents that are safe and culturally acceptable.

Fame is not regular. Fame and "success" are not the default cultural positions for Americans. And yet, many people, particularly people of my generation, seem to think that being famous is not only desirable, but realistically attainable. And I have to say, I do not understand this drive toward fame and fortune. It seems stressful. Tiring. Perhaps a little scary, especially if you, like Paula Abdul, agree to have cameras follow your every move. Talk about not being able to fulfill cultural expectations--some of these famous people are the blueprints after which young people are supposed to model themselves! How odd such a role must be.

When I see interviews with "MySpace celebrities" trying to increase their level of fame, or pop stars trying to make comebacks, I am perplexed. Why would someone voluntarily subject themselves to being under a cultural microscope? Is it for money? Do they believe that fame will cause them to be "loved" in some way?

This is probably a theme that will be explored in other posts, because I sure as hell can't think of a good way to end it.

**Beat that, Fear Factor.

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