Monday, October 29, 2012

Famous for being the sister-in-law of someone whose grandma is famous for being famous

By Marc Jampole
 
When I saw Parade Magazine’s front cover of a semi-attractive young lady named Pippa Middleton watching a young girl eat a donut hanging by a string, I immediately thought of Miggy and A-Rod.

Miggy, Miguel Cabrera, the best pure hitter of baseballs since Mickey Mantle, only gets in the news when he does something newsworthy like wins the Triple Crown or gets flagged by the cops for drunk driving. By contrast, faded superstar Alex Rodriguez gets in the news every time he pulls out of his driveway, waves to an attractive women or yawns.

A-Rod is a celebrity and Miggy is merely a great athlete.

But at least A-Rod can still hit a little bit and is a good fielder with the best infield arm since Cal Ripken.

And at least Lady Gaga can shake that thing and pretend to sing. Although just like Madonna three decades past, many rock critics gush a little bit too much about Gaga’s tunes, which really are the musical equivalent of eating microwave-warmed KFC leftovers.

Moving along the celebrity spectrum to the less essential, we can at least point at the relatives and paramours of the Kardashian bimbas and say that they have some accomplishments, e.g. Olympic gold medalist, pro basketball player and entertainment business mogul.

But what the heck did Pippa Middleton ever do to deserve any coverage in the news media?

She is the done-nothing sister of a done-nothing who married a done-nothing whose did-nothing grandmother happens to serve a hereditary ceremonial role that symbolizes everything against which the United States is said to stand and against which we fought the Revolutionary War. The bedrock of American exceptionalism—a theory that I reject—is the principle that we have no royalty. All men and women are created equal. 

Middleton represents the pure celebrity—famous for nothing more than being famous. While the news media can find small admirable things about her life, in the grand scheme of things, she is little more than a hanger-on to royalty: a sycophant to evil. Let’s not forget that royalty is the belief that some people are inherently better and more deserving than others, and not even by virtue of doing good, but merely by birthright. To assert this belief, kings and queens through the ages have killed, maimed, tortured, stolen, raped and pillaged.  Middleton is the avatar not of evil monarchy but of the parasite, the drinking companion or the lady-in-waiting. Would we hang on the words and actions of the familial flotsam of the North Korean dictator?

When Parade first got the idea to build its Halloween issue around the celebration in another country, I wonder if a Spanish-speaking land came to mind, and was then rejected as not entirely keeping with the current anti-immigrant wave welling across the heartland. The Sunday supplement to most local newspapers wouldn’t want to appear to take a political stand over Halloween.

To make Merry Olde England the exotic foreign land whose celebration of Halloween Parade would feature makes sense since part of American consumerism is to homogenize the exotic—to reduce it to a few easy-to-identify traits that are then used to trick up the same old same old. Since we’re so British to begin with and we speak the same tongue, we start with instant homogenization.

But as usual, when Parade explores a holiday, social issue or milestone (with the strange exception of its recent excellent feature advocating vaccination), it does so through the prism of celebrity. It can’t just be British or Celtic (Irish) Halloween; it has to be Halloween celebrated by a British celebrity.  If fact, how Pippa spends her Halloween has less to do with Celtic or British traditions than it does with the high quality enrichment I associate with the best public elementary schools.

Who did Parade not feature? Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Prime Minister David Cameron, Christian Bale, Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins!), Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins. These Brits are all celebrities and have also done something, although I don’t want to conflate acting in a few popular action hero movies with making major contributions to the science of evolution.  

For Parade and the American mass media, the celebrity sets the tone for a celebration, trend, idea, holiday or event. The celebrity defines and upholds the standard as to what is hip, new, chic, stylish or socially acceptable. The celebrity tells us what to do, what to eat, and most importantly what to buy.  The celebrity sells not just products, services and actions but the very idea that social interaction reduces to buying.

As it turns out, much of the Pippa Middleton article consists of a hodgepodge of interesting ideas to expand Halloween beyond dunning neighbors for treats that the children then consume in a sugary orgy. Parade suggested activities like leaf rubbing and pumpkin bowling that actively engage children in imaginative play and easy crafts but which aren’t really British, English or Welsh.  Reading Halloween books with children is also a good idea.

Setting aside the relative lack of authenticity in Pippa’s Halloween, what corrupts these excellent suggestions for a Halloween party is the very fact that the context is the celebrity, and not just any celebrity, but the pure celebrity, known for nothing more than being famous.

Parade consciously decided to build its celebration of Halloween around a celebrity. That they found one who represents an inherent evil is merely a lucky bit of symbolism, since the very concept of celebrity is as detrimental to the human body and soul as royalty is. Royalty enslaves us to other, more powerful people who can never lose their power (until we overthrow them), whereas celebrity enslaves us to the marketplace and the concept that all human expression revolves around buying and consumption.

The actual suggestions in the article eschew marketplace solutions for the quaint, old-fashioned and many would say enduring values of imaginary play and crafty activities. Parade validates these values through the vehicle of celebrity, as if to say that even though leaf rubbing and cutting spooky place cards has nothing to do with vacationing at a fancy resort or wearing designer dresses, they’re still okay because a celebrity does them.

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