Tuesday, August 05, 2003

checking in to the Hilton

There are a great many clever people who make it their sick business to diagnose our unwell culture. Personally, I am too lazy pay these critical thinkers much heed. Just above the din of text message alerts and Hot 30 countdowns, however, I can sometimes make out their whining. Which usually proceeds along the lines of: everything’s crap and there’s just no substance anymore.
Normally, I really don’t fret about the absence of sense in contemporary culture and I just go about my meaningless business. I hold celebutantes in a vague esteem: I think of them only occasionally and with the same mild affection as I would my second cousins.
Immersed as I am in pop culture’s soap opera, I do not fret too much, as, really, it just seems so distant.
My relationship with electronic media and its protagonists is normally quite hazy and manageable. And so I pay about as much attention to the paranoid bleating of media critics as I do to bi-annual Dental Exam reminders.
That is, of course, until the advent of The Hilton Sisters.
Yes, Nicky and Paris, for those of you unversed, are a pair of those Hiltons. They are wickedly blonde, unreasonably young and, if one believes the gossip rags, visited by wealthy businessmen quite so often as the Hotel chain that bears their famous name.
To date, despite their burgeoning fame, they haven’t done anything of ‘substance’ . That is, unless you count taking tremendous risks with Instant Tan, getting drunk and putting their names on an unremarkable hand-bag product line.
Oh, they each have accrued a brace of ‘Girl on Beach’ credits in the sorts of movies that go straight-to-video. They date Male Models. And Paris will shortly lay claim to a quasi-legitimate fame when she co-stars with – wait for it – Lionel Ritchie’s daughter in a FOX produced reality TV extravaganza. Word is, The Simple Life threatens to topple broadcast standards even in this, our post Joe Millionaire era.
So why do I, and countless others, feed the Hilton monster with our endless fascination? .
What could modern scholars tell me about the Hiltons and their vacant rise to fame? Why are the normally dispassionate, such as I, drawn to their every dilettante gesture?
I considered telephoning an academic to demand, why do I love Nicky and Paris? They have neither talent nor grace nor exceptional looks. Their curriculum vitae is a motley affair peppered only with wealth and occasional, unsubstantiated reports of sex in fashionable public bathrooms. What IS it about these gals?
Remembering, from my brief tertiary experience, that most academics in the Cultural Studies department were very rude and, in general, too busy writing Buffy The Vampire Slayer theses, I refrained
it was up to me to unravel the threads of my obsession.
Looking long at a picture of Paris who, it must be said, does look rather a lot like Sarah Michelle Gellar might if she’d stayed up all night and retouched her make-up after a vat of Long Island Iced Tea, I made some decisions.
It is the Hilton’s LACK that makes them so intriguing. It is precisely their absence of achievement, wit, Bouvier charm or, frankly, anything else that makes them so compelling.
Those who can empty themselves of history, accomplishment or substance are inheriting the earth. Just ask Gee Dubya.

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