Tags: Hollywood | and | Attention | Spans

Hollywood and Attention Spans

Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00 AM

A friend of mine was complaining about the fact that we seem to have got our priorities mixed up, and he cited the sudden national furor over the strange conclusion of "The Sopranos" TV series had momentarily driven the more important subject of the Paris Hilton saga from the public consciousness.

I have to confess that he had a point.

The comings and goings of this famous heiress whose fame rests solely upon being famous, have captivated a large segment of the population and being wrenched away from Miss Hilton's continuing and real drama by the controversial demise of a fictional one betrays a certain fickleness on the part of the celebrity-fixated public.

It raises the question about loyalty — cannot we be consistent enough to ignore such distractions as the final episode of a popular TV series and keep our eyes focused on what really matters? After all, Paris Hilton is in the slammer, for heaven's sakes, and is it not an act of betrayal to turn our gaze away from her plight to fret over the failure of Tony Soprano to get the whacking he surely deserved?

This public's habit of failing to keep our eyes on the main event — on the things that really matter such as whether or not while incarcerated Miss Hilton is being forced into the, for her, unnatural need to wear undergarments — is illustrative of our inability to remain focused.

This underwear (or lack thereof) matter is considered scandalous, even though what passes for feminine underwear today, which as the lingerie ads reveal, is as close as not to wearing any at all.

Needless to say, by abandoning her even for a day or so in favor of raising an outcry over the fadeout of the final scene of "The Sopranos," we have shown that we are ever ready to go ga ga over any new sensation that bursts onto the scene even if it means throwing our current fixation into the trash heap, even if temporally.

In the case of Miss Hilton that is not about to happen.

At the moment she's the apple of our eyes. She has it all: money in obscene amounts, a strange attractiveness, a flair for keeping herself in the limelight even if it means allowing a videotape to circulate of herself and her lover of the moment engaged in what should have been a very private activity, or tugging at our heartstrings with her tearful pleas to her mommy to rescue her from painful reality as she is dragged kicking and screaming from the courtroom.

Availing herself of the ability to make collect phone calls from durance vile, she chose not some valued clergyman confessor to reveal her repentance and her newfound faith in God, but Miss Barbara Walters, friend and confident of another recent example of the public's tendency to fixate on celebrities and their peculiarities: one Miss (or is it Mr. or something in between?) Rosie O'Donnell.

The strategy of keeping the public attention diverted from what is really going on around us has in the past been attributed to governments such as that of the Roman elite, the spiritual predecessors of Mrs. Nancy Pelosi and Dr. Howard Dean, who kept the common folk in line by providing bread and circuses.

As the Hilton saga reveals once more, Washington doesn't need to supply the bread or the circuses — we are doing the feeds a big favor providing them for ourselves.

We don't need the Democratic welfare state to hold our attention and feed us and amuse us — the media does it for them by giving is what we crave — sensation after sensation — Anna Nicole Smith — the gift that kept giving, the birth of her baby, the death of her son at her very bedside, her own bizarre passing, the battle over where to bury her rapidly deteriorating remains, and the paternity of her child — the whole world was going up in flames, but who cared, we had our love for l'affaire Smith to keep us warm.

At the moment the Middle East is in turmoil — its usual state but now exacerbated by the muddle in Iraq and the incredible aggressiveness of Iran and Syria, and the ever present Palestinian/Israeli conflict which always threatens to plunge the world into a new holocaust — the specter of nuclear armed terrorists in our midst, yet our attention is focused on Paris - not the Paris of the abundantly named new French President Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa, but our own.

I must confess that for a long time, distracted by other matters, I thought that Paris Hilton was a hotel in the City of Light and Muslim unrest. Coming from a much earlier time, the Hiltons I remember - the Hiltons who have always managed to grab headlines - were Conrad, the original hotelier and his wayward son Nicky, once briefly married to Elizabeth Taylor, and an heir with a flair for getting his name in the newspapers. His last headline unfortunately was his premature death.

Somehow, when I wasn't looking, Nicky appears to have morphed into Paris and her sister, another Nicky. He would certainly be filled with admiration of this Hilton generation's penchant for not only grabbing headlines, but gobbling them up and running away with them.

But I digress. The plight of comely young blondes in distress and the lure of wandering down memory lane where the Walters I remember is not Barbara but Lou, her nightclub owning dad, tends to distract me in my current excursion towards my dotage.

The question here is if this fascination with celebrity damages the national wellbeing? Should we not be sitting around fretting over the current state of affairs? Is it not vital to our national survival to have a citizenry actively involved in the day to day events of our times.

Maybe, but not always. We need of course to keep our wits about us as we sit staring goggle eyed at such sensations as the Hilton affair or the fate of a fictional mobster, but there is nothing wrong with finding distractions when the world is going to hell in a handbasket all around is, and it is obvious that there's damned little that we can do about it. I'm not saying we should echo ancient Rome's cry of "eat, drink and be merry." but there are times when that's not really all that bad an idea to chow down, tipple a bit and laugh it up.

Besides, we have proven that we do keep our eye on the ball when such monstrosities as the so-called Comprehensive Immigration reform bill raises it sinister head. It seemed certain to pass until all us Paris Hilton watchers turned off the Soparanos and picked up the phones or typed away on our e-mails and told those scoundrels in the Senate not to dare pass the thing.

Having done that we can get back to the stuff that really matters. Will Paris serve the full sentence? Will Tony Soprano come back in a movie? Is Elvis really dead?

After all, if our world is about to burst into flames and consume a lot of us, why shouldn't we go into the furnace with a smile on our faces.

Pax, Fratis!

Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s.

He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers.

He can be reached at pvb@pvbr.com.


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A friend of mine was complaining about the fact that we seem to have got our priorities mixed up, and he cited the sudden national furor over the strange conclusion of "The Sopranos" TV series had momentarily driven the more important subject of the Paris Hilton saga from...
Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00 AM
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