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Sensationalism and the American Paradox

Friday, 20 February 2004 12:00 AM

Last month, Janet Jackson celebrated the release of her newest album by baring her breast before thousands at the Super Bowl. And last week R. Kelly was heralded by the NAACP and the Grammys as one of the most successful commercial artists of 2003, while this week he will return to court to contest charges of child pornography and pedophilia.

What is so shocking is not the gap between scandal and success, but that in our society scandal breeds success. The wilder Hollywood becomes, the louder we cheer.

Record sales climb as 50 Cent discusses his jail time or being shot. Ratings jump as "CSI Miami" guarantees a few more shots of girls in bikinis. And dailies fly from the shelves every morning as America learns about the latest political intern scandal. The further they go, the more we watch with bated breath while buying the latest product to bear their names.

Why do we condone and support this behavior?

Perhaps it’s because they shock and excite us. Because they appeal to our fantasies and, in a way, allow us to live vicariously through them. Britney Spears capitalized on our husbands' and sons' dreams of the girl next door. Janet Jackson simply showed us what we all wanted, but never expected, to see.

Sex sells, and so does power. How many of us have imagined what it would be like to be the superstar? To be the quarterback the girls pine for ... the politician guiding society ... or an artist capable of creating beauty we could never imagine? We all have, and when we dream we don’t dream of a generic rap star, basketball player or politician; we dream of them.

We dream of being as strong as Hulk Hogan, able to fly like Michael Jordan or able to make men act like boys, like Madonna or Britney. It’s human to dream, and our superstars play an important role in making our dreams possible. However, for that we are willing not only to forgive their transgressions but also to champion them by buying their songs, watching their movies and cheering their teams.

What’s more, it isn't just us watching, it’s also our children. Little boys and girls are growing up watching their fathers and mothers listen to, watch, cheer and vote for the basest individuals. They’re learning that what matters isn’t doing what’s right but being successful, and that the easiest way to succeed is to use force, expose your body, lie and cheat.

We cannot continue to condone and excuse our heroes' behavior. R. Kelly raped someone's daughter, Kobe Bryant allegedly did and at least admitted to extramarital sex, Janet Jackson exposed her breast to millions of children, Jason Kidd beat someone’s sister. By buying their products we made it possible.

It's time for this adulation to stop. These people are abusing our rules, mocking our way of life and teaching our children not how to succeed but how to fail. It's time for our heroes to stand up and be just that.

107-107-104

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Last month, Janet Jackson celebrated the release of her newest album by baring her breast before thousands at the Super Bowl. And last week R. Kelly was heralded by the NAACP and the Grammys as one of the most successful commercial artists of 2003, while this week he will...
Sensationalism,and,the,American,Paradox
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2004-00-20
Friday, 20 February 2004 12:00 AM
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