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Tuesday 02 December 2003


MSNBC is right now running a story on ‘why Americans are so obsessed with celebrities and their scandals’ (verbal italics are MSNBC’s). Their main focus is on the recent Paris Hilton B.S.

Now, a lot of things about the news media drive me nuts, but it’s perhaps their almost-total credulity that annoys me the most — and they’re never more credulous than when dealing with celebrities.

Lets examine the situation. Paris Hilton is famous mainly for one thing, the infamous Paris Hilton Sex Tape, a grainy night-vision bit of uninteresting amateur porn.

I knew who Paris Hilton was before the tape, but that’s only because I read Page Six assiduously. On Page Six — and in similar New York gossip publications — Hilton has been well-known for some time. She was referred to in these places as a ‘scenester’, or a ‘socialite’. She was famous mainly for going to a lot of parties.

A lot of people go to a lot of parties, of course: we call most of these people Big Ten students, and they’re not famous for it. Paris Hilton was a minor celebrity for going to parties because she went to the right parties, i.e. ‘exclusive’ parties. The problem with ‘exclusive ’ parties, though, is that, to keep the thing ‘exclusive’, you can’t invite everyone: there’s a limited circle of people who know about ‘exclusive’ parties, and an even more limited circle who actually attend the things. Thus if your celebrity is based on attending ‘exclusive’ parties, it’s hard to leverage that odd celebrity into national fame.

But Paris Hilton wasn’t just famous for going to a lot of parties. She’s neither interesting nor good-looking nor quite rich enough for her mere presence to be noteworthy. Paris Hilton was, in the end, famous mostly because she had a good PR agent. Without a lot of money being spent, though, a good PR agent doesn’t win you much fame with the Great Unwashed, since the movie studios etc. spend so much on seeing to it that their stars are famous: and movie stars are famous for something that is actually visible to the public, i.e. appearing in movies.

So until the Sex Tape came out, most people in the U.S. wouldn’t have been able to distinguish between these:

Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton

That’s a problem when you’re trying to launch a career in the public eye, and when you’ve got a dodgy TV show premiering soon. So what do you do? You — and a friend who’s trying to get an amateur quasi-porn business of his own off the ground — produce a videotape that can’t itself be shown on TV, but that creates an enormous amount of publicity. It’s a masterful scheme: so far today, I’ve received over thirty e-mails trying to sell me a copy of the tape.

Paris HiltonI’ve got no problem with any of this. As I said, I think it’s an absolutely brilliant PR gambit, not only in that it gets Paris Hilton an enormous amount of free publicity, but in that it does so without, ahem, actually exposing her to the public all that much. Paris Hilton herself as a celebrity product has a pretty short life: as I said, she’s not that interesting or good-looking. But Paris Hilton as the subject of an enigmatic porn video that can’t be shown on TV is enormously intriguing, and I predict success, at least in the short term, for the insipid TV show, premiering tonight, in which she has a starring role.

This isn’t what you’ll hear from the TV networks and the pulpier magazines, though (non-pulpy magazines choose, largely, not to notice Ms. Hilton at all). They’ve swallowed it, hook, line, and sinker, and, to the best of my knowledge, no one has suggested that they are all being played like a fiddle. I have to assume that this is because they have not noticed.

Posted by tino at 23:06 2.12.03
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Finally! someone who agrees with me that Paris Hilton is NOT GOOD LOOKING! :-)

Posted by: glenn at December 3, 2003 05:28 PM

Put me third on that list. Skinny, blond, and rich, yes. Attractive - no.

Posted by: Malia at December 4, 2003 12:50 PM

Hilton has a nice body, but really not that much to look at. who hasn’t seen better, really?

Posted by: Kevin at December 9, 2003 07:04 PM

She’s what, twenty-one years old? Most twenty-one-year-old girls have nice bodies. The only difference between Paris Hilton and the majority of her cohorts is that she’s got the money to have professional stylists deal with her hair, clothes, etc. all the time. There are very few people who couldn’t look good if they threw enough time and money at the problem.

Paris Hilton doesn’t look bad, exactly — I happen to like the blonde-hair-and-way-too-much-dark-eye-makeup look that she favors — but then given the amount of attention and money that I assume are devoted to her looks, she doesn’t look that good either. If I am informed by a reliable source that she just rolls out of bed and in front of the cameras, I will retract my statements and concede that she’s good-looking. Until then, I’ll maintain my position that she’s a rather plain-looking girl who is made mildly good-looking by the application of much skill and money.

She actually looks much better than usual in the predominantly-red picture I have above; the angle obscures the strange shape of her nose, and the fact that it’s a head shot hides the fact that her head looks to be far too large for her body.

Posted by: Tino at December 9, 2003 09:10 PM

I think she looks like crap. Her chin is really long. Kinda scary thing she has going on there. =\

Posted by: Etherlain at January 22, 2004 02:06 AM