Tuesday, July 10, 2007

America's Party Girl

A little over a year ago, when I administered a cultural knowledge survey to my classes at Lenoir-Rhyne College, I learned that more students could identify Paris Hilton than could identify a classical music composer whose name begins with 'B', the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the continent on which the country of Chad is located, or even recognize that there is no state East of North Carolina. Nearly 50% of students had no idea where Chad is located. Of those, 26% guessed that it was located somewhere in South America. Nearly 47% didn't know that there is no state East of North Carolina. Most of those who failed to identify the Secretary of Defense guessed that it was Condoleezza Rice. Of those who couldn't identify a classical composer whose name begins with 'B', the vast majority could identify the newest American Idol. However, far and away the highest percentage of correct answers were to the question: "I am Paris Hilton's former best friend, and I have an on-again, off-again relationship with Adam Goldstein (AKA D.J. AM). Who am I?" 68.1% knew the answer: Nicole Ritchie. And if these knew who Nicole Ritchie is, then obviously even more knew Paris Hilton. Paris Hilton! Why?

Here's what Rob Long has to say:
"She's a 26-year-old, highly sexualized halfwit with nothing, really, to her credit. She's silly and pointless, and whether she knows it or not, more often the butt of the joke than in on the joke. We don't know for certain what the next five or ten years will bring for this tiny-brained, sexy little zero, but we're all pretty sure it doesn't end in Oslo, at the Nobel Peace prize ceremony. It doesn't end in the State Department, as the Ambassador Plenipotentiary to this hotspot or that. It doesn't end in the lobby of Sequoia Capital, a Silicon Valley-based venture-capital fund, with the specs to a revolutionary new search-engine algorithm in her Bottega Veneta attaché. It doesn't end with her on the shuttle to Boston with a copy of Grant's Interest Rate Observer.

"No, it ends in a liquor store, or a drug overdose, or a car accident, or, worse, in obscurity. It ends as a punchline to a series of monologue jokes by Conan and Jay and Dave and Craig and Jimmy and Jon and Stephen and whoever else needs to fill 30 seconds of TV time with a fast, easy (just like Paris! See? Even I'm doing it!) laugh line about a rich, stupid, sad, almost-30 skank.

"... And, honestly, what would we have her do? The poor thing doesn't have a brain in her head. She's purpose-built for mindless partying and promiscuous sex -- all hair and smoldering looks and shapely shapes, without a meaningful bone in her body....

"Why do we want to see her humiliated so deeply? Why do we relish the sight of her slinking off to jail? Why does she offend us so? ...

"God forbid ... What if she finds Jesus, or global warming, or -- it's almost too awful to contemplate -- Darfur in there? Would we really prefer the serious, concerned Paris -- she'll wear serious glasses and trim suits, push down the curves and stop the sexy pouts -- appearing with all of the other celebridiots, droning away about the planet and the poor and the importance of buying local?

"Paris is our party girl.... Of the many, many, many social ills we now confront as a country and a culture, Paris Hilton ranks up there with Public Gum-Chewing and Insufficient Attention to the Beauty of Carribbean Dance...."
It almost makes you want to weep.

[Acknowledgement: Rob Long, "American Party Girl: The prisonerette in L.S." National Review, July 9, 2007, pp. 35-36.]

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