Gossip is gospel

I'm unable to log onto my computer anymore without reading something about Amy Winehouse smoking crack-cocaine. There's nothing new in society's fascination with celebrities. But with increasing use of the Internet and the spread of tabloid culture into the mainstream a world has been created where gossip is almost as good as gospel and we all crave it like much like Winehouse craves her narcotics.

What I cannot ignore is the media's ever increasing coverage on train wrecked, codependent female celebrities who make multiple headlines everyday for unsatisfactory behavior. Drug use, alcoholism and eating disorders top the list, as well as anything sexual.

It has even become the debate of experts. European and American academics met recently to examine society's fascination with "train-wreck" female celebrities and why the public and the media seem to get a kick out of Britney Spears' meltdown, Lindsay Lohan's drink and drug arrests and Amy Winehouse's rehab struggles. Topics included "Britney's Tears: The Abject Female Celebrity in Postemotional Society" and "Hooker, Victim and/or Doormat: Lindsay Lohan and the Culture of Celebrity Notoriety."

Diane Negra, one of the organizers, said participants wanted to study why we take "pleasure in seeing women brought low."

There are plenty of male celebrities, like Pete Doherty or Robert Downey Jr., whose personal and legal difficulties also make headlines, but Negra seems to think the coverage of women is more judgmental, casting wayward female celebrities as "cautionary tales." She said coverage of female celebrities is less likely to celebrate a troubled star's triumphant comeback, the way Downey has been lauded for "Iron Man," or Owen Wilson has been shown returning to work after a reported suicide attempt.

"We seem to have a lot more fixed ideas about what women's lives should be like than we do of men," she said. "When we use female celebrities this way, we see them failing and struggling, they serve as proof that for women the work-life balance is impossible. Can you have it all? The answer these stories give again and again is 'absolutely not.' "

I have heard a term floating around dubbed the "Lolita Effect": A genuine market push to sexualize girls at a younger and younger age. All of a sudden we have created cradle-to-grave consumers of fashion and beauty products. Young girls are being targeted with messages that traditionally went to much older women. These troubled stars, are our young girls ideas of success, and somehow we think it is glamorous to model our lives after them.

The fascination with celebrities is obvious. What is not so obvious is the clever marketing of their downfalls that's taking place behind the scenes. But if you were making millions of dollars, drinking and getting loaded each night to a crowd who both idolized and hated you, and your picture was in multiple magazines and you had permanent paparazzi camped at your door step, as well as one hell of a voice and no one who seemed to genuinely intervene, It would be hard for you to stop too.

We find stories almost daily in publications we trust as newsworthy which tell the woes of Winehouse as they compare her to Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin, but Winehouse is a whole different breed of celebrity. They compare her to these notable figures because we recognize them and their stories. Because it gives us a box into which we can more easily shove Winehouse, and they can paint her future without being too blunt, but, we all know what happened to these ladies. The media is basically preparing us for what they know may inevitably happen to Winehouse. And I guarantee you every one of them is keeping close, camera poised, so they may cash in on the sad moment when it finally arises. It is true that we iconify those most who come to a tragic death, the difference is we now know what constitutes the equation, and instead of fighting it, we are doing as much as we can to propel it. Let's face it, we are addicted to watching people suffer, and as a society, somehow we have made this the norm.

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