Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rewarding Bad Behavior

Will there ever again be a time when being famous doesn't include drama, drinking and dumbing down? Even when I hung around stoned hippies at Bethesda Fountain (in Central Park), we valued people who exhibited some level of intelligence and inimitable talent. Now it seem as though anyone capable of ignoring cameras while immersed in obnoxious behavior beyond measure has become a superstar and takes home more money than they can count for the privilege. (And I do mean that literally.)

It's beyond me in every way. It's not an age thing. It's a "What's the attraction?" thing.

Reality television had a level of appeal in its infancy. We felt like voyeurs, sharing an intimacy with "real people" or celebrities behind closed doors. Now it's so obviously staged and very often, staged quite badly. Gene Simmons Family Jewels, Season 1? Fantastic. I fell in love with him. Not because of KISS but because he has a business mind that makes Trump shudder. But Season 2 of Family Jewels was so obviously scripted that it was nauseating. Then it got worse.

The Real Housewives franchise is an extraordinarily embarrassing portrayal of the worst women—and the worst in women. The reals are hideously fake. I mean, I get it. Everyone has ulterior motives--selling products, selling themselves, angling for their own series, etc. But watching someone like New York's Countess de Lesseps—who actually seemed interesting—eventually lower herself to the level of a poor man's Rhianna, physically hurts. Really. I have a pain in my chest just thinking about it.

Then of course Atlanta's Nene is everywhere. (Sadly enough.) Atlanta's Kim Zolciac is ridiculous. Whether it's wigs, music singles, or earplugs, it doesn't matter. Whatever she's selling, I am not buying. Flat-out embarrassing, all the way around. I can't be the only one who thinks so. I'm no Bethenny Frankel fan but at least she deserves some credit for marketing a usable product sold at a relatively reasonable price (SkinnyGirl low-calorie alcohol drink mixes), then handed over most of the business to Jim Beam for as much as $11 million. (Try to zero-in on that figure… very sketchy data.)

The Kardashians bring me to tears. I'm actually shaking my head incredulously as I type this. Lovely girls. Walk the red carpet, smile, pose. Great. But other than that? Not an ounce of talent among them. That Kim was encouraged to make a music single and host a network television special is nothing short of mind blowing. But then she shines when compared to sister Kourtney's performance on "One Life to Live." Kourtney was reported as saying she "felt like a prostitute" when shooting her segments. A loaded line if ever there was one. Less than a month later, the soap—on-air since 1968—was canceled, effective January 2012.  Thanks, Kourtney.

If you think I'm just hating or venting for the sake of bitching, here's my real problem: In addition to the fact that the concept of "quality television" is becoming an oxymoron as a result of the influx of these "superstars," people now seem confused as to what makes for a "quality person." The louder, brasher, most obnoxious wheel gets rolling and money is thrown at them. Why should anyone even bother to strive for decency?

Then there are those with obvious, credible talent who lack the good fortune of bumping into Ryan Seacrest and being turned into media icons. Don't you find it the least bit sad that a natural born showperson may miss his/her opportunity because these marginal characters were hogging up the spotlight?

A pathetic precedent has been set. Values have been skewed. Appropriate behavior is careening out into the stratosphere. Everyone wants to be spectacular and lavish and have everything designer, flashy and ostentatious. So few are willing to put any work into achieving it. Nor do they think they need to do anything to achieve it. Except behave outrageously.

Just because you don't agree doesn't mean I'm "hating." I'm really not. I'm stating fact. The day Rutgers University decided it would hand Snooki $32,000 to speak and only give Nobel-winning novelist Toni Morrison $30,000 was the day any semblance of sanity died for me. After all, the message "Study hard but party harder" is worth $6,400 a word, isn't it?

It's unlike me to state a problem without a resolution. But I only have one: Pray. Pray for our souls. Pray for our sanity. Pray for reasonableness and levelheadedness amongst the people of the universe. Even if you're an atheist. Pray.