Saturday, June 02, 2007

Who Are These People -- And Why Should I Care?

The other day I was flipping through a copy of The Advocate (that's our version of Time Magazine, straight people). On the cover was a cute young guy with a dog draped around his neck. Ignoring the cute guy's sense of fashion I leafed through the pages until I came upon the article about one, T.R. Knight.

So why is he on the cover of this national magazine, I thought, who is he, some young gay guy from the mid west who took his boyfriend to the prom?

Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that he is one of the stars of the television program, Gray's Anatomy. Then it dawned on me, he was the actor that another actor on the show called, "faggot"; OK, now I sort of knew who he was.

I did remember the brouhaha a few months back over that incident, but I don't watch Gray's Anatomy, so what do I know?

Then, this morning, I found myself sipping a cup of coffee and staring at the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly. Staring back at me, was an actress named, Katherine Heigl.

Again, I was drawing a pop culture blank; who is she?

And then I saw that she also stars in the same television program.

Good god, there was a time when I knew who everyone was, but these days I can't keep my celebrities straight.

Fact: I had no idea who Lindsay Lohan was until last summer when I saw her in the film, A Prairie Home Companion. Whatshisname had to school me on the scandalous facts of that little human train wreck (he watches all the gossipy TV shows).

I think the problem today is that there are just too many so-called-celebrities. I mean, all anyone needs is to be on television for one hot minute and suddenly they show up on the public radar.

Andy Warhol was right, everyone and their mother is getting their fifteen minutes these days.

I do not watch American Idol, but it seems like everyone else in the world does. So when there was all that talk about the guy who apparently did not sing very well, but was still garnering large amounts of votes, I stood befuddled as others chatted about him.

Fact: At work someone asked me my what I thought about Sanjaya. I looked at my questioner and said, "Oh I don't like sweet wine."

The other day I picked up Al Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason, and came across the following passage where Gore wonders why we as a culture are more obsessed with the sensational than with the practical.

Gore stats off by talking about O.J. Simpson:

"....O.J. has recently been back at the center of another fit of obsessive-compulsive news, when his hypothetical non-confession wasn't published and his interview on television wasn't aired. The particular explosion of "news" was truncated only when a former television sitcom star used racial insults in a comedy club. And before that we focused on the "Runaway Bride" in Georgia. And before that there was the Michael Jackson trial and the Robert Blake trial, the Laci Peterson tragedy and the Chandra Levy tragedy, and of course we can't forget Britney and KFed and Lindsay and Paris and Nicole. Tom Cruse jumped on Oprah's couch and married Katie Holmes, who gave birth to Suri. And Russell Crow Apparently threw a telephone at a hotel concierge ...

... And while American television watchers were collectively devoting a hundred million hours of their lives each week to these and other similar stories, our nation was in the process of more quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a series of catastrophically mistaken decisions on issues of war and peace, the global climate and human survival, freedom and barbarity, justice and fairness."

Reading that was like a cold smack upside the head. Suddenly, I did not feel as bad for not having my finger on the pulse of pop culture like I once did. Certainly, I am not one to ignore showbiz gossip (or even take some pleasure in it), but lately I have found myself more prone to reading a book, or listening to NPR than fretting over what is on television(with the exception of The Sopranos, Studio 60 and Ugly Betty).

Sometimes I feel like this whole nation is being anesthetized to reality -- it seems that people will spend more time debating Rosie O'Donnell's latest misadventure than they will the dissembling of the Constitution and The Bill of Rights; and I'm as guilty as the next person.

But hey, at least I did not know who T.R. Knight or Katherine Heigl was.

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