Can a Paris Hilton Survive the Obama Era?


Stephen Cave’s recent roundup of new books on celebrity culture in the Financial Times made us think of that Frank Rich piece we shouted out before, particularly this part of the Op-Ed:

“On Tuesday the new president pointedly widened his indictment beyond the sins of his predecessor. He spoke of those at the economic pinnacle who embraced greed and irresponsibility as well as the rest of us who collaborated in our ‘collective failure to make hard choices.’ He branded as sub-American those who ‘prefer leisure over work or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.’ And he wasn’t just asking Paris Hilton ‘to set aside childish things.'”

Cave — who seems to believe that if the fame machine has us slouching toward Bethlehem, our progress has been been slow and steady for centuries — also invokes the Hilton name in his review.

“Take their bête noire, Paris Hilton, the most famous person to be famous simply for being famous. Although she is one of the most googled people on earth, nobody can quite remember why we’re interested in her. Guinness World Records lists her as the most overrated celebrity but it’s not even clear what she is overrated at. If you believe the pundits, she is the embodiment of our vacuous age, the bare-breasted figurehead at the prow of a booze-cruise party boat adrift without a moral compass.”


“It is ironic that, whereas [Mark] Rowlands blames the rise of relativism for the perceived decline in the talent of our celebrities, [Mark] Borkowski ascribes it to an upsurge in truth. The rise of rapid communications has ‘killed off the ability to lie so freely’ that early publicists enjoyed, he writes. The myth-making of earlier generations of kings, cardinals and film stars that has so successfully duped our philosophers into their belief in a golden age, is no longer possible in an era of instant reportage. To exploit this immediate, over-exposed era takes a new and particular kind of genius. A Paris Hilton, for example.”

We’ll agree that you don’t land in between “Football” and “Wiktionary” on the Lycos 50 by being a moron. But if Rich is right, and it is time for our country to put down our childish obsessions, while it might not equate with the fall of fame, it will certainly put a dent in the party boat. Even if we can’t remember the name of that blonde heiress who was at the helm 20 years from now.

[Via via Fimoculous]