We’re all slaves 4 U

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 By: Grace Baranowski <gbaranowski@hilite.org>

Please, no more about Britney.
The whole thing is like a suffocatingly whiney friend who has called too many times, moaning about life’s problems. But the informational snippets don’t come in the form of texts or endless phone calls—they scroll across the bottom of my television screen with all the urgency of CNN “war on terror” updates.
Britney might be the most dramatic current example of an overexposed, struggling celebrity, but she is definitely not alone. Anna Nicole Smith’s death proved the extent to which the media can free fall into depravity, and it doesn’t waste any time now in publicizing her younger peers.

Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton join her ranks, providing “celebrity reporters” endless material. While Spears might flirt with reporters regarding rehab, Lohan has had a torrid affair with the press. In one minute and out the other, caught drinking at a bar and apologizing publicly (to whom?) the next day, Lohan has given the paparazzi enough material to feed magazines, Internet blogs and TV broadcasts already fat with the glut of scandalous behavior.

Yet I understand why the public greedily consumes it all. Celebrity gossip glitters on glossy magazine pages. The lifestyle is everything we can’t have, yet everything we want. The information glut hangs a forbidden fruit, maddeningly swinging in front of us, and the only way we can hope to enjoy it is to spend hours watching the talking heads on E! or perusing blogs. It’s all the glamour and intrigue of a Hollywood lifestyle, without the annoying reality check of a Hollywood mortgage. It’s money, it’s sex, it’s drugs. And sadly, it’s a big chunk of our national media coverage.

Misguided celebrities have become our way out, so we don’t have to deal with the realities of a complicated world outside of Hollywood. For the moment, the trivial dramas of child custodies or drugged-up, partying teen celebs seem more important.

The audience can lose itself in a fantastically foreign world of designer brands and multimillion-dollar movie deals, rather than the solid foreign world of U.N. mutterings and Iraqi suicide bombers. The media itself is guilty of the same hedonistic misdeed. The pure glut of the media as it littered flirty (and pointless) videos of Anna Nicole Smith at her death is evidence. According to a study done by Think Progress, “NBC’s ‘Nightly News’ devoted 14 seconds to Iraq compared to three minutes and 13 seconds to Anna Nicole. CNN referenced Anna Nicole 522 percent more frequently than it did Iraq. MSNBC was even worse — 708 percent more references to Anna Nicole than Iraq.”

During that time, four Marines employed in Iraq died and the sixth helicopter fell from the Iraqi sky in three weeks.

After all, what’s more interesting: a woman covered completely in a dusty blue hijab or a woman writhing, half-naked, and popular for those flaunted assets? It’s simple—sex sells. But for it, we sell our ability to focus or think critically about our nation’s serious issues. By mindlessly absorbing the chatter on the airwaves, we can forget the turmoil in the Middle East. We don’t have to be bothered to think of such things as presidential elections.

Pesky little matters like skyrocketing gas prices or crashing housing markets seem too serious, too big, to think about in the context of Lindsay’s latest collapse or Britney’s most recent motherly faux pas. We sell it not just at the price of fully understanding the world around us, but also at the expense of the people actually in our lives.

It can all be misleading. After seeing a celebrity’s face on the news so many times, one may begin to think that they know the person, and actually, oddly, become shocked or personally affronted if the celebrity acts in a way not personally acceptable to the viewer.

It’s time to realize that celebrities are nothing more than people, built up into idols by the entertainment industry. You don’t know them any more than those beautiful faces know you, even if you’ve wasted a chunk of your own life following theirs.

Instead of falsely investing in the extreme version of a one-sided relationship, don’t trust the hand that feeds you the junk food of information. The media doesn’t give us the information we need to know; they give us what we want to know. They’re the fun aunt that hands out sweets at dinner time, when all we need is a strict father to feed us broccoli. Grace Baranowski is a managing editor for the HiLite. Contact her at gbaranowski@hilite.org.