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July 6, 2007

An inconvenient (and inconsistent) media

The confusing thing, to me at least, about popular culture is the readily apparent double-standard that plagues the nation's gossip. Now, I made a personal vow to never blog about *gasp* Paris Hilton, but in comparison to the recent incident involving the son of The Al Gore (Al Gore III) I can't help but announce my confusion.

Yes, both stories have garnered/are garnering their share of media attention. Strong reactions to the stories have generated a sort of media melee--from jokes on the Late Show to "spotlighting" issues facing America's young adults. What I find bizarre, though, is the range in the different types of reactions.

Paris Hilton was already watermarked onto every last page of the gossip magazines from now till when she gets cellulite, and she essentially has Entertainment Tonight and every other fashion/gossip venue wrapped around her little finger--she was/is everywhere. When her arrest got out, I could hardly watch any television. She was the butt of every last one of Jay Leno's jokes. The situation was only exacerbated when she had an "episode" (supposed claustrophobia) and was released--but then the judge told her to go back. How many days was she in jail? 23? When she finally did get out, she was criticized for having prepared answers to questions Larry King asked. Now I'm certainly not defending her, but don't celebrities usually have prepared answers (because their publicists wouldn't have jobs otherwise)?

Al Gore's son was arrested for speeding (going 100 mph in his Hybrid--who does that?), but police also found marijuana and a party mix of prescription drugs. I haven't seen any responses by 24 year-old Mr. Al Gore III either on television or in print, but instead The Al Gore is being bombarded in interviews. Word has it that he actually cancelled a couple to avoid being grilled. Instead of making light of the situation, though, the general media response seems to be concern. It's a far kinder response than that which greets Paris both on red carpet and behind bars.

Differences in the situations are evident, but what I'm interested in are the media responses to each of them. Paris was already a media maven, and The Al Gore gets his share of press (especially with his movie and the upcoming Live Earth concert). I'd just like to know which Media God deigns that one person from popular culture deserves to be pointed at in an "I told you so" manner and the other deserves to be treated like a victim of the culture...

Fact is, it's not a Media God--it's the people, directing the media with ratings and their undivided attention. An editorial in a newspaper in Alabama says it best: "If people would be as interested in hearing people who affect national and world issues, this old globe might be a better place."

So is it better that the spotlight is on the son of Al Gore, since he's affected these "national and world issues"? Not really. In fact, not at all. It might be worse. Relatives of celebrities (music, silver screen, political or otherwise) are, perhaps unwillingly, dragged into the spotlight. Sometimes it works well for folks--take the latest Disney sensation Hannah Montana, played by Miley Cyrus, the daughter of Billy "Achy-Breaky Heart" Cyrus. But the negative press, like what Gore and son are experiencing, doesn't seem deserved (like the press Paris swims in, hot or cold, flailing as she's pushed in or swan-diving in stilettos).

I am astounded as I read online or watch the evening news, knowing that essentially these people in the news somehow will end up representing my generation (in some twisted way) merely because they made news for whatever reason. It bothers me a bit that there seems to be a double-standard for how the subjects of the media are treated, though. I refuse to stand up for either person in this case (because they both did something very wrong and should be punished according to the law like any other American citizen). It's sad that it takes a famous person (or someone related to a famous person) doing something wrong like drinking and driving or possessing illegal drugs in order for any one to pay attention to the problem, finding it elsewhere in society only after expanding the focus to the "real" people. I have no conclusion, no suggestions; just disappointment and bewilderment at the world we live in.

Posted by KarissaKilgore at July 6, 2007 4:02 PM


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