Monday, July 16, 2007

Ugly Obsession: Seeing Through the Stars

Celebrity journalism has always been the ultimate oxymoron. Journalism is about truth, celebrity is illusion. But now neo-fan magazines and web sites have pushed the contradiction to a new level, seeking what Virginia Heffernan calls “evidence of monstrosity.”

The TV critic of the New York Times writes: “Like so many other 20th-century American institutions, Hollywood beauty is now regularly treated as a fairy tale only for dreamers and chumps. Readers with any sense are supposed to recognize its strategic function but otherwise acknowledge it as a lie. The availability of plastic surgery and the widespread use of tooth bleach and self-tanners and finally the photo manipulation that any grandma can do to brighten up her Canon PowerShot photos has somehow made even transcendent beauty manifestly suspect.”

Debunking beauty is surely satisfying to the mean-spirited and ugly of soul, but is that what’s become of all of us?

I take an old man’s pleasure in looking at Michelle Pfeiffer. Diane Lane and Scarlett Johansson, and no voyeur with a magnifying glass is going to take that away from me.

Heffernan ends up being of two minds about “dismantling fantasy,” but her analysis is devastating. She has been one of my favorite critics ever since she described me as an “ashen-faced talking head.”

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