There's this new trend in TV now to have shows that feature comedians poking fun at pop-culture, particularly celebrity culture. The programming usually consists of a countdown of some sort, such as "Top 100 Celebrity Slip-ups" - they run down each slip-up and a group of comedians make wise-cracks about how foolish the celebrities were for doing whatever they did.
The VH1 network started this trend with its "I Love the 80s" and "Best Week Ever" Shows. Then the E! network jumped the bandwagon and created specials with a similar format.
I have to admit that these shows started out to be really funny, but, lately, I have noticed that the shows (especially the ones on the E! network) have started to cross the line of healthy satire and enter a much more dangerous territory.
Take as an example the "Top 100 Celebrity Slip-ups" special that I mentioned before. The show featured things like Paris Hilton asking whether Walmart was a place that sold walls, and some super-model (forget the name) saying that minks only exist to be made into coats, and also Tom Cruise voicing his controversial opinions regarding anti-psychotic drugs. In all cases, the comedians featured on the show had no problem coming up with ample material for cheap-shots.
And although I find the stuff that the comedians say to be pretty funny like everyone else, I can't help but be concerned with the kind of effect such cheap-shots have on the culture in the long run.
Take the case of Tom Cruise as an example: I don't know about you, but when Cruise first started voicing his strong opinions regarding anti-psychotic drugs and how someone like Brooke Shields would be better off without taking these drugs I really started to respect the guy - not because I agreed with him, necessarily, but because I saw that a high-profile celebrity was FINALLY saying something he believed in, even though it was controversial and would most likely ruffle a few feathers on its way out of his system.
But I seemed to be the only person who reacted in this manner. Everybody else was completely outraged and immediately proceeded to tar and feather the guy (figuratively speaking, of course). How stupid Cruise is! How dumb! How ignorant! What an ass!
And the comedians on VH1 were just reflections of this kind of reaction. They saw Cruise and his controversial opinions as being an extremely easy target for their "satire" and found it completely appropriate to make one joke after another about how foolish he was for voicing such strong beliefs.
What is wrong with this picture? This is a rare occasion when a super-famous celebrity like Cruise actually stops speaking his play-it-safe, butt-kissing, politically-correct, public-flattering bullshit and what does he get in return? "Oh, what an ass!" "How stupid!" "Did you see him say all those foolish things on Good Morning America?" "How dumb he was for doing that!"
What kind of America are we living in when a person (especially a high-profile public figure) can't even voice his mind and say something genuine without getting such an incredibly hostile reaction in return?
Discouraging celebrities from speaking their mind and referring to it as a "slip-up" (as VH1 does) is very unhealthy. It perpetuates a sick notion in our culture that only idiots speak their mind and the smart guys play the PC-game and keep their mouths shut. It creates a very Un-American environment to live in.
As for Cruise, life hasn't been at all pleasant for the celebrity since he spoke his mind about the anti-psychotic meds. Not only was he completely ridiculed by the entire nation but his professional career has also suffered, having - among other things - recently lost his production company's partnership with Paramount Pictures because of his "bad behavior".
In attempt to rectify this so-called "bad behavior", Cruise personally went to Brooke Shield's house and apologized to her. She accepted the apology. But, really, what was Cruise even apologizing for? That he was wrong about the anti-psychotic meds? Or that he was wrong to voice an opinion that turned out (perhaps to his surprise) to be too controversial?
I guess my point is that America, "land of the free," ironically seems to be a place that is frighteningly hostile towards freedom. It inadvertently does things to kill off freedom, like rank on celebrities when they speak their mind, which consequently sends a message to the culture that speaking one's mind is a foolish thing to do, that free expression is "bad behavior".
I'm not saying that everyone should be allowed to speak their mind without being questioned, like in a "to each his own" or "I'm ok, you're ok" kind of way, because that's not right either. We should react to what is said, but in a less hostile manner.
Our nation currently has troops in places like Iraq and Afghanistan who are working hard to fight what President Bush calls "haters of liberty." But are we any LESS hateful of liberty than people like Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jung-Il and members of Al-Qaeda? Isn't it perhaps somewhat hypocritical of us to be fighting these people when we are just as much enemies of freedom as they are?
To quote Tolstoy, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves." Maybe the changes that have to be made in the world today aren't in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and North Korea. Maybe they're right under our noses. Maybe the only war we should be fighting today is with ourselves.