More and More Do I Realize: the Paris Hilton Essay


NOTE:  In February 2007, a video appeared on the web of the Hilton sisters at some party, and they kept saying “nigger” and shit.  So I dropped everything, wrote an essay about it, and posted it immediately, figuring that the story would blow up and The 1585 would be first on the scene. Now, fortunately for the Hilton sisters, but unfortunately for me, Anna Nicole Smith died the next day, so no-one remembers this at all.  But it happened, and this is the essay I wrote about it .

So, I just saw the video of the Hilton Sisters saying “fag” and “nigger” at a party, and I thought I might as well add my halfhearted outrage to everyone else’s.  Now, of course, the same questions apply as to any “outrageous” comment taken out of context:  were they referencing some private joke by impersonating someone they know; were they speaking in a way that they knew would be viewed as ironic by the people they expected to see the tape, etc.  If it’s either of these, then the charge should not be one of prejudice but rather one of naivete — you didn’t think anyone would see it?  Come on:  if your last name is Hilton, then it’s going to end up on the fucking internet.  Shit, this is three days after a clip of a fat guy from Long Island crashing through a fence had the nation captivated, so obviously Paris Hilton dropping N-bombs is going to catch somebody’s attention. 

Does it mean they’re actually racist?  Probably not.  Wasn’t Paris dating a black guy at some point?  Wait, maybe that was one of the 5,000 famous people who’s exactly like her.  Anyway, someone was dating a black guy.  I forget who.

Does it mean they’re actually homophobic?  Probably not.  Whatever else you want to say about faux-model zillionairesses from Manhattan, it’s inconceivable that they don’t hang out with gay guys on a regular basis.  I don’t know who makes those little sweaters for Paris’s dog, but I’m betting it’s not the ghost of John Wayne.

Does it mean they’re…  Okay, I’m going to give up saying “they” at this point, because no-one gives a shit about Nicky.  Keeping track of which one said what was too hard in that grainy-ass video, and the fucking thing went on forever (damn, no-one cares that “a bitch” was trying to talk to her boyfriend or whatever — just show the part where she says “nigger!”).  If Nicky wanted to make the racism tip her own thing, then she should have designed a handbag that said nigger on it or something.  They were both there, but I’m just going to conflate them both into Paris like the rest of the country will.  Outrage over celebrity antics is no time for accuracy.

Hilton Sisters
No, not those Hilton Sisters.

It’s also no time to waste precious space by talking about the actual antics in question, so I’m just going to do like the rest of the country and use inductive reasoning to show how the new incident simply confirms whatever opinion of the celebrity I already had in the first place.  And to do that, we’re going to need to flash back to the golden Spring of 2005:  the season when Watergate’s Deep Throat turned out to be some guy no-one had ever heard of, the Vatican decided it had been far too long since they’d had a Nazi Pope, and Warner Brothers released their teen-oriented remake of the Vincent Price classic House of Wax.    

Now, the first thought that crossed my mind when I heard that Paris Hilton had a part in a horror movie was:  Gee, I wonder if she dies.  The same sarcastic question probably crossed your minds as well — and I say sarcastic because, well, of course she dies.  Paris Hilton is our society’s quintessential living embodiment — our Platonic ideal, if you will — of the character in the horror movie who simply has to get killed:  she is (factually) very wealthy, (factually) very attractive, and (according to the conventional rumors about her) unintelligent, shallow, and hedonistic.

Of course, the last three things aren’t what really cause you to die in a horror movie anyway.  The vast majority of people are unintelligent and shallow themselves, so that’s obviously not what they’re lining up to see punishment of the psychologically gratifying stabby-stabby variety being doled out to.  As for hedonistic, doesn’t everyone like pleasure?  I mean, isn’t that pretty much part-and-parcel of the definition of pleasure itself?  The fact that it's, you know... pleasurable?

Ah, but not everyone can get it.  Everyone likes pleasure, but some are in a better position than others to get it — and the people in the best position of all are those who are very wealthy and/or very attractive, and so enter the first two things that ensure your death in a horror movie.  Especially one aimed at teens, the segment of the population that devotes the greatest amount of time and energy to earnestly wishing that everyone who has what they don’t have would be gruesomely murdered.    

Paradoxes are possible to construct:  What if an ugly character somehow has sex?  What if an attractive character sets out to have sex, but fails?  What if the hottest, horniest little tramp in the movie also has an IQ of 195 and might cure cancer someday?  Do they die, or not?  The answer is that the horror movie simply does not present us with these situations, because they do not reflect the affective oversimplifications with which we perceive the world.  In our minds, those who are more attractive than ourselves achieve all they set out to achieve, and the ugly ones, with whom we identify, do not get to have sex at all.  And hot and horny people who are also smart and/or have something to contribute to society simply do not exist.  It is not that we all believe ourselves to be virgins — we do realize that we actually have had sex now and then — but we regard these instances as the exceptions, not the rule.  When we get laid, it is an accident; when that perfect person over there gets laid, it is the way the world works.

And since the way the world works is the reason people needed to think up God as a counterbalance, it’s no wonder that religion — and its deformed sidekick, horror movies — always falls into the predictable trap of wagging the finger at sex.  But the unacceptable problem that religion presents to the religious with regard to the promised smackdown of the lucky — er, I mean, the evil — is (strangely enough, for people who claim to hate hedonists) delay of gratification: 

“We know that these rich, young sexy people will be punished eventually, Lord, for daring to have what we wish we cou—  um, we mean, for defying your divine commandments...  But it takes too long, and we won’t get to see because we’ll all be in Heaven, as a reward for not having the option of acting like that even though we really wanted to—  er, we mean, for resisting temptation through our strength of will…  We want to see them butchered now, while they’re still rich, young, and sexy, at a theater near us!  Once they’re dead, then maybe it will finally be our turn to act like that—  uh, we mean, continue not to, because, you know, we’re so religious and stuff…” 

But why is the audience not troubled by the fact that the horror films’ primary figures of evil — Freddy, Jason, et al — are acting in place of God?  The answer is that our impressions of power precede our understandings of good and evil and always remain nearer to our hearts.  Before we understand that God is good and will punish those who don’t behave morally, we understand that God is powerful and will punish those who displease Him according to some random, mysterious schematic of whatever it is we sense He doesn’t like.

And since we made Him up, “He” tends to mean us.

The same goes for our parents:  before we understand why we are not allowed to do a certain thing, we understand the mere fact of not being allowed to.  The belief that a car might hit me if I go into the street comes long after the belief that Mommy and Daddy will be angry with me if I go into the street.  We eventually link these two impressions in a cause-and-effect relationship, but that first impression, of pure power serving an order we do not understand, never leaves us.  What matters is not whether God would kill you, only the fact that He could kill you — effortlessly — and so can Freddy and Jason.

The foundation of morality is the capacity for sympathy for the victims of amorality — the ability to ask “what if that were me?”  So what happens to that capacity when every fiber of your identity screams that the victim in question is fundamentally not you?  The casualties of African civil wars are fundamentally not us, because they do not have what we have, and so we don’t care about them because we never think about them.  Paris Hilton is fundamentally not us because she has what we don’t have, and so we don’t care about her because we always think about her.  So what is morality — caring about yourself?  I thought that was the opposite of morality.

The very word immoral has become so associated with mere sexual impropriety that I wish there were a different word you could use regarding issues of morality that are actually important (“unmoral?”).  Using a different word is pretty much the only way to ensure that people realize you’re talking about murderers and so forth instead of “sluts.”  Forget Beyond Good and Evil — we are now below good and evil.  We spend so much more time thinking about people we're merely jealous of that we are barely concerned with actual evil anymore.

Well, we’re not jealous of a serial killer, are we?

paris hilton same facial expressions animated gif
It's a terrible thing to be denied freedom of expression.

Look at any “crisis of morality” that makes national news — the whole Terri Schiavo thing, for example.  There have been shitloads of cases of brain-dead patients being taken off life support, and many that occurred while the Schiavo case was dominating the headlines — so why didn’t all those people give a rat’s ass about the other patients?  Well, no-one identifies with being brain-dead (though some people should), but tons of people identify with the fear that their spouse might be interested in someone else (forgetting that fact that this would be totally natural and excusable if you were, you know, effectively fucking dead), and so that’s what they focused on.  If Michael Schiavo hadn’t had a girlfriend, the case would barely have made local news for a day, much less national news for months.  American morality tends to have a lot more to do with preventing people from doing something fun than it does with helping people in any way that would require effort on your part.  Just ask all the parents out there who think that good parenting has more to do with not allowing your kids to do stuff than it does with spending any time with them.

Once you realize that your life can’t get any better, you reorient your goals around making other people’s lives worse.  People can be better than you in four main areas:  attractiveness, wealth/fame, intelligence, and skill/talent.  Conservatives accuse Liberals of class warfare based on their desire to tax the rich more heavily, but that also serves to improve lives — e.g., the money can be used to make a school in a crap area better, and so on.  The Conservatives seem merely to be projecting onto the Liberals where jealousy is concerned, because virtually all Conservative religious animi are against people the religious types are merely jealous of, from gay rights:

“Gay lifestyles are unnatural because the union can never result in a child (damn, it must be great to be able to have sex and not worry about pregnancy…  oh, shit, where was I?).  This fact exposes them as merely hedonistic pursuits of physical gratification (wow, can you imagine how awesome it must be to be a gay dude?  I myself would be fucking all day long if it weren’t for the fact that women keep turning me down, but when it’s dudes who are attracted to other dudes…  fuck, I wish I were gay!).  Anyway, yes, clearly I think it’s terrible.”

…to abortion:

“Someone who would choose to end the life of an innocent fetus has no sense of responsibility (and also must be getting laid, unlike me).  God intended these women to settle down and have families (and stop showing off by getting lots of different people to fuck them, when I can barely find one…  getting them off the market would sure make life a lot easier for us losers).  Abortion should only be permissible in cases of rape or incest (even though logically I am supposed to think that it is a human life either way, the fact is I’m not jealous of women who got raped, only women who can get laid voluntarily), or in cases where the life of the mother is in danger (why would I be jealous of someone who’s that sickI only want to make life miserable for people whose lives aren’t already miserable, like mine is).  To reiterate:  I really, really care about fetuses, and am definitely not just pissed off because I’m a loser.” 

Of course, it’s not only religious Conservatives who see horror movies.  The majority of people are ugly, which means that the majority of people on both sides of the political fence are ugly — and this means that both the left and the right have an interest in denigrating the attractive in a way that raises the self-esteem of the unattractive.  The right does this by excoriating sex itself, and the left does this by speaking out against traditional subjective artificial media-created hegemonic standards of whatever-the-fuck-it-is.

Either way, though, the hot girl is going to be a bitch and then fuck and then get stabbed.

Well, that was a rather long excursion.  Maybe I should get back to the video that inspired the post.  After all, it’s not like I had an essay about Paris Hilton sitting around two-thirds finished and was just waiting for her do something else that would get her in the news so I would seem topical. 

Paris Hilton sexy legs on pommel horse in high heels
Look, she promotes physical fitness.
Do you promote physical fitness?

I’m certainly not arguing that throwing around words like “nigger” is no more serious a violation than filming yourself fucking or telegraphing your penchant for going commando as you exit a limo, or that anyone who gets mad about people using the word is just jealous for some reason.  That would make no sense.  What I'm doing here is pointing out the fact that the media reaction will be no different from the media reaction to anything else Paris does, when it should be very different.  But it will just be another scandal, another “incident,” another grainy video on the web, another headline trumpeting that Paris Is At It Again!

“Did you see that video where Paris says nigger?  AND SHE WAS DRINKING AND SHE WAS WEARING A SKANKY DRESS AND DANCING LIKE A SLUT OH MY GOD SHE IS SUCH A WHORE I HATE HER SO MUCH…  um, because of the nigger thing, of course.” 

Someone saying “faggot,” or “nigger,” or using “public-school” as an insult, upsets me a lot more than someone wearing sexy clothes or drinking a lot.  But the former things are not why people hate Paris Hilton; the latter things are.  People will claim to be upset with her language, but in most of their cases, they will only be pretending to be upset, when they already hated her just because she’s lucky.  Shit, if I were really hot and had a bazillion dollars, I’d go to a lot of parties too.  Why the hell wouldn’t I?  The point is, I don't get any less upset when I hear someone who isn’t good-looking and doesn’t have a lot of money say those things.  And the people who will act maddest about Paris using these words are exactly the same people who would call you the “PC Police” if you got mad about a regular person using them.  But when Paris Hilton screams “we're like two niggers!” while freaking to Biggie, people care — because she might as well be screaming “we're like two white people who aren't us.”

Well, obviously actual Black people will legitimately be mad about it.  But you know what?  Black people aren't the ones who bitch about Paris Hilton 24 hours a day, because they have more important shit to complain about.  The people who do bitch about Paris Hilton 24 hours a day are other dumb white people who clearly just wish they were her.

People are always saying that we “let” celebrities “get away” with things, but if you think about it, exactly the opposite is true:  we criticize celebrities for things that we wouldn’t give a shit about if a regular person did them.  Paris Hilton dresses up sexy and goes out and gets drunk?  So does every last female college student — it’s called being young in America.  Michael Richards made a racist comment and it ended his career?  I hear assholes say shit worse than that every day on the street.  I’d love it if it ended their careers too, but it doesn’t.  When Bill Clinton cheated on his wife, the Republicans justified bringing articles of impeachment by saying “he could be fired for this if he was the CEO of a major corporation” — yeah, great, except that the CEOs of pretty much every major corporation (who are all Republicans) do cheat on their wives and no-one cares… unless they’re also celebrities. 

I guess I agree with the Conservatives when they say that the contemporary “celebrity culture” has made America into a less moral society — but for a very different reason from the one they would give.  They say it’s because celebrities are “bad role models.”  I think that the average celebrity is no worse a role model than the average person, and probably even a little better of one.  The reason that celebrity culture has made America less moral is that it has made morality a vicarious business — the average person can score great “morality points” by excoriating Paris Hilton, Michael Richards, or Bill Clinton, and then run off to behave in exactly the same ways themselves (or, more accurately, try to behave the same ways, only to screw it up).

What exactly, after all, is Paris Hilton guilty of besides the sin of actually having the life that the rest of us all wish we had?  By upbraiding her, we merely console ourselves for the fact that it’s not going to happen.  If art is what holds a mirror up to society, then Paris Hilton is the greatest American artist of the early 21st Century.

No wonder everyone hates her.

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