Sunday, November 09, 2008

Here is a letter to the editor of The Atlantic that I sent in back in April 2008 in response to this article in about Britney Spears and her Paparazzi.

--Re: The Britney Show

If Britney can be described as a moth in the night headed toward death by the big bright bug zapper, the paparazzi can be described as helping to drive the moth to the zapper and then making a fine art out of capturing the flames at just the right camera angle.

Britney’s bubble-gum girl next store slut image is perhaps a product of needing of father she never had and of willing to accept any sort of male attention even if it is really bad and exploitative. Like an addict to this attention, she has developed a craving for this nasty and destructive attention, even if she must “Eat it!, Lick it, Snort it! F*ck it!” to get it. As an addict, Brittany simultaneously loathes and craves the exploitative attention of the paparazzi and of the online chat room fans who cluck over her every insane act and who love to see her stardom toppled.

Here, the paparazzi are more than just the vehicles of this miserable attention. The paparazzi are directly contributing to Britney’s insanity as direct actors on the stage of Britney’s drama. They are so violative of the sort of aloneness and privacy that she would need to even begin to sort herself out. When this need asserts itself in her, she rages at what has become a miserable existence and breathes "like a bull” out of fury desperation to be left alone. Of course, as Brittany rages out, she is only ever more fascinating to the paparazzi, who want to capture the next crazy antic.

Instead of dwelling on the macabre idea of profit off of the combustible flames of her self-destruction that they have had a role in creating, the razzi have dwelt on the “art” of this exploitation and speak in almost hushed tones about the sublimity of the art of their craft. If Britney "fulfills her apparent and dies in a fiery car crash”, they will revel in the camera angle and the lighting that they photograph her corpse and may not spend a moment meditating on their role in it all.

If that happens there should be a "righteous outcry against the paparazzi and those who publish their pictures". There should be also be a moment of introspection at our culture that has allowed the paparazzi to become profitable. At this level of patent exploitation, merely saying that "paparazzi exist for the same reason that the stars exist: we want to see their pictures" and being glad when "we are confirmed in our belief that it is better, after all, not to be one of them" is no excuse and no good. Those who revel in seeing Britney in her current condition courtesy of the paparazzi are living out their own complicit form of sickness.

I’ve become more and more convinced that celebrity obsession is one of the “axis of rot” in our culture along with “fleeting indecency”, slut fashion, and a host of other things.

TMZ, in particular, is a hugely successful paparazzi company with a TV show that makes money off of harassing celebrities. It adds nothing of value to the culture, and only services the voyeurism of people who need the “tear’em down so that I can feel better about my miserable life” aspect of celebrity obsession.

The end of celebrity obsession needs to start with Christians. To the extent that we Christians participate in the culture of celebrity worship, we need to repent of admiration/envy of celebrities as an idolatry that uses humans to medicate holes in the soul that only God can heal.

Let’s take an indefinite fast from media celebrity voyeurism. For those who can’t imagine a complete break with products of the paparazzi, how about starting with a fast from celebrities for lent.

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